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INNOVATE

Stop Stifling Entrepreneurs in Your Company

By punishing failure, you'll scare the innovation out of your employees.
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If you're not nurturing failed attempts by your employees to build, create, and innovate at your company, then you're not helping to support an entrepreneurial culture needed to compete in the marketplace.

Sadly, if you punish or simply don't tolerate failure, you're not alone. In a recent study by management consulting and tech services company Accenture, only 12 percent of respondents said their company was good at tolerating failure in their employees' entrepreneurial ventures.

More than one-quarter of the 600 U.S. corporate employees also said they specifically didn't pursue an idea because they feared negative consequences.

Matt Reilly, a managing director at Accenture, writes in the Harvard Business Review that if leaders want to drive innovation and be successful, they must support entrepreneurship in their company, which requires getting used to failure--not company-killing failure, but the quick failure of an idea that leads to another, better idea.

"If [leaders] want their organizations to generate more good ideas, monetize the best of them, and in general innovate faster, they need to not only tolerate but celebrate the fruitless pilots and instructive flops that are an inevitable part of the process," Reilly writes.

Reilly says that if you're not enabling entrepreneurship, chances are you're probably stifling it. Check out his rules for giving your entrepreneurs more breathing room.

Value innovation.

Reilly says that you must communicate, even over-communicate, how much your company values innovation. Make sure to convey that everyone's goal is to create something that will help serve the customers directly.

Don't forget about effort.

You need to reward entrepreneurial projects that work, but you also have to "reward efforts, not just outcomes," Reilly says. He says that financial or other incentives can help spur employees to greater action, especially when they have heavy workloads.

Trim ideas.

Speed and precision will help you and your employees innovate successfully. You will get many ideas, some good, some not so good. Reilly says you have to "cull ideas without killing initiative." Focus on good ideas that can grow, not lead you to a dead end.

Celebrate learning.

The most important aspect of entrepreneurial activity is that you learn. If your idea fails, find out why. Put aside egos, and remind employees that just gaining knowledge is a valuable goal.

Last updated: Jan 7, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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