It’s summertime. The perfect time to reflect on the past and the future. A time to recharge the batteries. To disconnect and enjoy. And, of course, get new ideas for the future, reflect on your career. Where are you in your work? Is this the life you want to live?
We all know where such thinking takes us. But it often doesn’t stop there. As soon as you have figured out that you want more in life (more challenges, more purpose, more fulfillment), different questions need answering. Should you stay, or should you go? Should you hustle and start your own business. Should you look around and try to find another job? Should you ask your boss for a rotation to another position?
But it is also time to be careful. You should realize that leaving your current job will have serious consequences. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. We have all had this experience. It often makes more sense to stay. It can even offer you more freedom than starting your own business. The “startup” process can quickly overtake you, which means saying “goodbye freedom and creativity” for some time.
The “should I stay, or should I go question” depends a lot on the “corporate culture.” Does a company view you as an employee or an entrepreneur? What are the possibilities to develop yourself? Does the organization take your career seriously?
Look around and ask yourself this:
Does my company provide me with the environment to live a fulfilling life?
Companies often showcase a healthy culture. Go to their websites and read their vision and mission statements. Most of them seem to offer training and development programs. They cannot wait to welcome you to their families. The websites usually brag about how your development is crucial to them. But after some time, you often realize that most of it were just window-dressing.
The real question is whether an “entrepreneurial spirit” is in the DNA of the company. But how can you test/know whether this is the case?
We have to understand what makes an influential company culture. What are the components of an entrepreneurial culture? Working at a technology company as well as a university, I have identified six components (six cultures).
These cultures cannot be isolated from each other. They work together, interact, interconnect, and even overlap. Also, one size doesn’t fit all. Some cultures will be more critical in some specific organizations. But in general, these “cultures” are more or less present in organizations that offer the most room for entrepreneurship and personal development.
A lot of books have been written about the internal culture of a company. Patty McCord’s book on Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility is a worthy example. These books explain how a company should live its values (or value what they value).
I found that the internal culture should be about communities and networks (instead of hierarchical structures). Sharing, collaborating in multidisciplinary teams, speed, and context are elements that you immediately see in entrepreneurial organizations. These organizations understand that it’s not about processes, procedures, and seniority.
Entrepreneurial companies (not only talk but) experiment with digital technologies. They see the opportunities for building platforms and using data and data analytics to create value (let’s call this trend “platforming businesses”). But the experimentation doesn’t stop there. Companies that encourage the creation of a digital culture also continue to disintermediate, digitalize, decentralize and personalize their products and services.
The Internet of Things spring to mind where artificial intelligence, blockchain, sensors, and augmented and virtual reality amplify and accelerate each other. Think about it. Sensors generate more data. The abundance of data will make AI smarter. Smarter AI will result in a better IoT performance and experience.
Companies that offer an entrepreneurial environment also know that disruption can only be avoided in collaboration with other companies (particularly startups). They usually have active corporate venturing arms and use incubators/accelerators to find new solutions/innovations.
Also, they intensively collaborate with startups and even acquire them. The companies must allow startups to preserve their own identity. Only then is there the possibility of the startup influencing the culture and practices of the acquiring company. These companies believe less in established procedures and more in serendipity and haphazard ways of responding to new challenges.
Co-creation must be enshrined in a company’s practices. In a digital era, it is all about personalization. Products. Services. Marketing. The consumer prefers products/services that provide an authentic experience, is functional, and offers connectivity. It is, therefore, necessary for companies to embrace co-creation.
There are several ways to achieve this and understand the community of users. The strategies vary from pure human strategies to fully-fledged digital strategies. For instance, Spanish fast fashion retailer Zara “co-creates” by closely listening and engaging with their customers. Stitch Fix (an online personal styling service) uses data-analytics and algorithmic curation to sell cloths.
A company should also facilitate connections to a community. Community building around products/services has taken on new importance in the age of social media. Maintaining a strong social media presence and making social media a destination for all users of a product is seen as essential for all firms.
The goal of social connectivity is to build a crowd culture that adds to the user experience and ensures deeper product loyalty and sustained commitment to the brand. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program is a good example.
A company must speak to all the different constituencies in an engaging and personalized manner. The legalistic forms of reporting that usually dominate “corporate communication” must have been abandoned in favor of more direct and honest ways of expression. A narrative creates a context that is vital for instilling confidence and encouraging a willingness to engage.
Companies that embrace an open culture master the art of storytelling. Their stories are authentic and also address hard-issues. Central to storytelling is the capacity to offer a vision — and the ability to motivate by inspiring a community to embrace that vision. Information disclosure can provide an essential opportunity for those in charge of a company to demonstrate leadership by articulating and disseminating their vision of the firm and its prospects. CEOs and other executives spending time on Twitter or other social media is often a sign that a company isn’t ignorant of digital disruption.
I am sure that other components influence corporate culture. But to me, the six cultures have always been a good indicator for distinguishing entrepreneurial companies from more traditional 20th-century ones. Again, think about it and ask yourselves:
Does my employer have an entrepreneurial corporate culture?
And why does this matter so much? Because only when they do can they deliver the kind of environment conducive to a meaningful, fulfilling, and fun experience. They will be able to attract and retain talent and, more opportunity, offer you the challenges and opportunities you are looking for (at least it worked for me).