Corporations Kill Eagles

In spite of years of corporate hype over invention and creativity, and the millions spent on seminars, training, and corporate consultants, big corporations have found that they can be neither innovative nor creative. I suspect that a consultant must have told someone that one of the requirements for innovation is to internally foster entrepreneurship.

 

Being an entrepreneur requires enthusiasm, risk-taking, self-motivated energy; it also suggests something that most corporations don’t have, a sense of ownership.

Entrepreneurship is undergoing a renaissance all over the world, according to the media. It is the next “new” thing. From American to European corporations, everyone is touting the importance of being an entrepreneur, except for the French who, according to a former president, don’t have a word for entrepreneur.

While I relish the spotlight, let me be a bit suspicious. I am always skeptical of corporate movements, because just about every movement in the world of business tends to be a fad. I am reminded of the creativity seminar that I attended in Colorado Springs years ago. As one of the speakers, I asked how many in the audience had been ordered by their boss to come to the seminar. One nice lady raised her hand and said, “My boss told me to come out to this seminar and learn how to get creative.” “That’s great,” I replied. “One seminar ought to do it.”

With this sudden interest in entrepreneurship, I am beginning to suspect that it’s because all of the ballyhoo about innovation and creativity in corporate America has gone for naught. In spite of years of corporate hype over invention and creativity, and the millions spent on seminars, training, and corporate consultants, big corporations have found that they can be neither innovative nor creative.

I suspect that a consultant must have told someone that one of the requirements for innovation is to internally foster entrepreneurship. I am sure that the consultant watered down the message that big corporations mostly fail at innovation because the very emotionally anesthetizing environment they live in spells the death knell of creativity. Consultants must have convinced corporate leaders that innovation is required to foster a climate of entrepreneurship.

What is it about entrepreneurship that has corporate America so excited? If you are an entrepreneur, it’s fairly easy to look at what happens day to day and compare it to what is not happening in a big corporation. I suppose it’s the entrepreneur’s willingness to push forward, to drive to solutions without being prodded. Being an entrepreneur requires enthusiasm, risk-taking, self-motivated energy; it also suggests something that most corporations don’t have, or have intermittently, and can never reliably get under normal conditions, a sense of ownership. At the end of the day, the real essence of entrepreneurship is a sense of ownership, the realization that it all depends on you and nothing is going to get done unless you do it. The real sense of entrepreneurship requires that employees act as owners. As I tell my employees, “If you want to be an owner, act like an owner.”

So, what is it about big corporations that keeps people from being entrepreneurial? I think the answer to this is equal parts structural, financial, and emotional.

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