Technological innovation has triggered a new trend internationally – the need for large companies to become more “entrepreneurial”.
Dr Gorkan Ahmetoglu, co-founder of Meta Profiling and lecturer in business psychology at the University College of London, says although many companies talk about “incorporating new technologies”, they are in fact doing nothing at all.
The reason is that people are not sure what to do or they are too comfortable. However, there will be an incremental move towards innovation and creating entrepreneurial ecosystems.
“Companies no longer have an option. It is now the stick rather than the carrot,” he said at a breakfast hosted by JvR Africa Group in Johannesburg. Many companies are “almost panicking” about all the new technology needed to remain relevant and competitive.
He refers to data which indicate that 50 years ago the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 Index was 60 years. Today it is 12 years. “In 10 years’ time most of the companies listed on the Index will be companies we have never heard of,” says Ahmetoglu.
Innovation has changed the way we do things. It has changed business models. The world now talks about the gig economy, the on-demand economy and the sharing economy. In the gig economy organizations often contract with independent workers on shorter-term contracts. The on-demand economy is enabled by the rating economy – everyone is rated like products – Uber drivers rate you and you rate them.
We will have on-demand managers, lawyers and even doctors and they will be chosen because of their ratings – mainly by total strangers. In the US there is the concept of rating your professors on overall quality, helpfulness, clarity and “hotness”.
The internet has made it easier for people who have usable assets such as cars (Uber) and property (Airbnb) and those who want to use it, to find each other. This economy is also referred to as collaborative consumption and collaborative economy.
Ahmetoglu says for a company to become entrepreneurial it needs to identify the entrepreneurial talent within the organisation.
Meta Profiling has done more than 100 empirical studies to identify the key characteristics of entrepreneurial talent. It includes:
• Creativity – divergent thinking, going against the status quo, thinking out of the box
• Opportunism – the ability to use information to “connect the dots”
• Pro-activity – being focused on the goal
• Vision – wanting to effect change, for the better
Ahmetoglu says bureaucratic cultures in an organisation lead to the disengagement or loss of entrepreneurial individuals.
He warns against the “over romanticising” of entrepreneurship. He says when there is growth in the number of “start-ups” in a country, it is a sure sign there is something wrong with the economy.
The key is to optimise entrepreneurship and innovation within companies. Leadership needs to promote an innovative culture, there have to be mechanisms to test ideas, decision-making cannot take forever, managers must be able to implement innovative ideas, and all good ideas must be rewarded, not only the ones that made the money, but also the ones that did not.
Ahmetoglu says the “rule of thumb” is to have people who will come up with good ideas. Their ability to use the information to connect the dots will assist with predicting consumer demands.
No matter how innovative people are, they still need the tools and encouragement to implement the ideas. “Innovation is also relative and contextual to a particular company – it is not general and absolute. The main factor is to analyse your competitors and recognise what it is, that you have to be a little better at.”
Dr Jopie de Beer, CEO of the JvR Africa Group, says many large corporates employ entrepreneurial talent. The trick is to identify and nurture them. Having a mix of entrepreneurial talent in the organisation can provide invaluable benefits with regards to staying abreast of technological and other innovations.