The process of entrepreneurial orientation of one’s own company is a compulsory step in order to keep up with the pace of the disruptive process of entrepreneurial digitization, which is more relevant than ever.
The encounter between company and customer has, in fact, undergone a directional inversion, moving from an outbound approach, where it was the company that found the customer, to an inbound approach, where the customer finds the relevant company by surfing the net.
Through this article, you will understand:
- the nature of the entrepreneurial orientation and the synergy between it and the company’s innovation;
- the fundamental role of the coach in corporate training and the importance of an entrepreneurial strategy;
- what are the fundamental entrepreneurial skills to be acquired?
What is entrepreneurial orientation?
Entrepreneurial orientation is the predisposition of business managers and executives to support and encourage the emergence of entrepreneurial ideas within their companies.
One might initially think that this characteristic only applies to these management figures. Still, it is precisely this limiting mentality that makes companies hostile places for employees with cutting-edge entrepreneurial ideas and skills, finding themselves forced to go elsewhere to realize them.
This problem is sometimes exacerbated not so much by the managerial mindset as by the lack of structure and organization on the part of the companies to enable the start-up and development of the business idea.
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Entrepreneurial orientation is, therefore, a fundamental indicator of health at every level within the corporate environment. It follows, in fact, that a correct strategic decision-making process, combined with the identification and enhancement of the skills of company members, leads to higher turnover, business expansion, and a better mindset aimed at improving individual performance.
There are several aptitudes that characterize a good and effective entrepreneurship orientation:
- Autonomy: the power of an individual or a group of people to be able to act in complete freedom for the realization of a business idea within the company. Typically in highly structured company contexts, it is a leader who has this decision-making power, but there is also a ferment of ideas and initiatives coming from “below” that must be considered and welcomed.
- Proactivity: the company’s propensity to seize new business opportunities and interpret demand through a forward-looking view of what competitors will do in relation to market developments, creating a competitive advantage.
- Risk propensity: the tendency a company has, through certain strategic decision-making activities, to invest in high-risk projects, to make choices under conditions of uncertainty, and to test itself in unknown and unhistorical contexts.
- Competitiveness: the company’s drive to compete with rival companies through in-depth analysis and observation of the latter in order to identify their weaknesses and criticalities and to anticipate them in the market, but above all, to become their leaders
- Innovativeness: the company’s encouragement to undertake innovative and experimental projects in advertising and management, but especially in research and development, sometimes sacrificing mature and established production lines.
Whether in an established company or a start-up, the entrepreneurial orientation needs constant monitoring as it varies over time in relation to numerous factors such as staff turnover, new business and production assets, and new business strategies, but primarily to avoid a misallocation of resources that would cause a breakdown in the company’s internal equilibrium.
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The entrepreneurial orientation toward innovation
A company that invests in highly innovative entrepreneurial orientation campaigns of its employees enables its resources to express and enhance their potential, but above all, to express it within unexplored business contexts characterized by high risk and investment.
Until a few years ago, companies had an arbitrary assignment of specific tasks to each worker, to which they had to adhere categorically, without considering other roles not within their competence. In recent years, however, especially with the advent of the digitization phenomenon, companies have made a U-turn, becoming aware of how the ability of their workers to learn and diversify their skills is the driving force behind the entrepreneurial drive. This change has led companies to the development of the lifelong learning model, i.e., the action of administering new entrepreneurial projects to their employees so as to exponentially increase their professional skills to be then reused in the entrepreneurial process.
The transference that this process has on the employees’ entrepreneurial orientation is incredibly effective, as they develop a propensity for continuous training and learning, which is indispensable in a constantly changing market that shows no sign of stopping its race toward digitalization. It is precisely for this reason that it is important for employees to be included in the process of training by specialized and competent figures, obtaining at the end of structured courses certifications that prove their professionalism.
The Innovation Coach
The Innovation Coach is the bridge that allows managers and company workers to move from entrepreneurial ideas born from innate aptitudes and competencies to their concretization, but above all, to make them sustainable in the medium-long term on the future market of reference. The entrepreneurial orientation that this figure is able to provide is based on training based on customized programs structured to prepare resources within a company for innovation and change. The innovation coach is, therefore, the business coach who “trains” for change, pushing his or her coaches to develop the creativity and mental flexibility that are indispensable to face and accept the stimuli of the environment.
The Innovation Coach possesses empathic communication, which, combined with a positive mindset and innovative lateral thinking, is the basis of the three main tools for transmitting his knowledge to the corporate population he interfaces with:
- Challenge to innovation: that is, pushing workers to the imagination and entrepreneurial creativity, helping them to communicate effectively as co-operating parts of a team driven by a common creative process.
- Sharing: the coach’s role is to create an effective connection between innovative ideas and the surrounding environment, avoiding miscommunication or entrepreneurial limitations due to an insufficient budget.
- Socialization: succeeding in creating an ideological synergy between the various people in the corporate environment, creating a team within which people in different hierarchical positions can communicate easily and without barriers
The innovation strategy
The main step to consider in order to initiate an innovation process within one’s own company is to establish a realistic entrepreneurial objective with a medium to long-term plan of action, together with a working environment that encourages and rewards the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of one’s employees. The innovation strategy must include a procedure that encourages and enables them to perform their assigned tasks smoothly and dynamically, but above all, to create a personal entrepreneurial vocation for improvement and innovation in the activities they are involved in.
When innovation strategies are devised, they must take into account a number of technological, economic, social, and institutional constraints. To overcome these barriers, companies can draw on the support of scientific communities and business institutions that provide specialized consulting services and the necessary intellectual capital. Competitor companies also play a key role in relation to innovators, pushing them to continuously improve and innovate.
There are mainly four main innovation strategies:
- Proactive Strategies: used by research-oriented companies, they aim to change the nature of existing products and services and improve their performance.
- Active Strategies: typical of companies with a very low-risk appetite, which tend to enhance the market position of existing technologies through strong internal research.
- Reactive strategies: companies that only move where innovations have positioned themselves in the market, developing low-risk entrepreneurial projects.
- Passive strategies: they wait for their customers to express an innovative need for a target product.
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Which entrepreneurial skills to acquire?
A company with an effective entrepreneurial orientation must orient its development plan towards specializing its employees, but primarily in being able to identify true Intrapreneurs among them, i.e., those resources with an entrepreneurial and creative mindset.
This search is far from straightforward, as sometimes the entrepreneurial talent of these individuals is not easily identifiable as they do not have the opportunity to manifest it, e.g., through company selection or scouting, thus remaining anonymous.
At the same time, it is true that it is not common to find typical Intrapreneur personalities in a corporate context, as this characteristic implies being willing to work long hours beyond the norm, but especially facing pre-existing corporate barriers that discourage new ideas and entrepreneurial drives. It is, therefore, the company’s duty to identify these resources and enable them to express their potential in synergy with internal assets.
The Skills of the Intrapreneur
The assumption from which one must start is that in the vast majority of cases, the innate talents possessed by a person are not enough to make him or her an all-around Intrapreneur with an effective entrepreneurial orientation. These characteristics must be supported by a synergy between a personal mission to improve and innovate one’s professional figure and a corporate context open to new ideas and talent acquisition processes. Only under these conditions can competent and specialized Intrapreneurs be formed.
The figure of the Intrapreneur must possess certain attitudes and skills which make him or her in line with the role:
- Creativity and curiosity: develop lateral thinking that enables the resource to develop new ideas or products that will innovate the market or offer new organizational solutions and new procedural strategies.
- Observation and emulation: looking for entrepreneurial success figures also from outside the company context to continue to improve and update, developing a strong propensity to listen to new and existing customers to gain new knowledge to develop.
- Active planning: a constantly active attitude towards market changes, implemented through a continuous search for new solutions, but especially competitive development opportunities.
- Managing uncertainty: entrepreneurial orientation for planning the company’s future and experimenting with target customers.
- Risk management and risk assessment: moving in a changing environment and courage to face uncertain business challenges.
- Experimentation: to derive data and information on which a better strategy can then be elaborated only after trying out even fallacious business strategies.
- Acceptance of failure: the ability to accept entrepreneurial mistakes and use them as a cue for further improvement.
- Excellent communication: has an effective communication strategy for selling or explaining business plans to customers, colleagues, or superiors.
- Collaboration: knows how to work in a team and is able to make use of the different aptitudes of the people in the team while at the same time being able to draw on and enhance resources outside the company.
- Resilience: maintaining motivation and entrepreneurial drive should the individual experience bankruptcy, limiting business assets, or insufficient budgets.
As we have seen, the figure of the Intrapreneur within the company, therefore, represents an incredibly fertile reservoir of resources from which it can draw to initiate its own innovation process. Based on this awareness, companies have developed the Corporate Entrepreneurship model, which consists of leveraging the attitudes and skills of their employees with the intention of entering new markets and launching new products or services.
Applying this type of business development project within business schemes means intensively fostering a culture of innovation and experimentation, which is sometimes absent, especially in large companies that view a change of market direction with skepticism.
In practice, there is the creation of a new organizational model capable of identifying and structuring the company’s internal resources and enhancing their aptitudes and ideas. Thus, a new entrepreneurial ecosystem is created, where all employees are able to channel their skills effectively into a reference project and take part in an effective process based on a valid and innovative business model. At the same time, it is crucial that the company also considers opportunities outside of its own structural reality since innovation cannot disregard entrepreneurial relationships beyond its own borders, sometimes leading to the creation of small satellite start-ups.
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To take stock
A functional entrepreneurial orientation is currently more essential than ever for a company that wants to grow, innovate, and, above all, cope with the digitalization the market is experiencing. We have seen that a company with a sound and effective development policy cannot disregard the search for entrepreneurial skills and cutting-edge ideas possessed by its ecosystem’s internal resources, stimulating them by creating a favorable working environment and specific training.
In this regard, we have seen how the figure of the Innovation Coach is the key point for devising a viable business strategy and creating a cohesive team, leading to the creation of Corporate Entrepreneurship, i.e., real entrepreneurial projects that become the main vehicle leading to digital innovation.
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