Sarah-Jane Bosch

Working for a company doesn’t mean you can’t be an entrepreneur,says Anthony Farr, chief executive of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

He believes some of the best innovations and developments are achieved by people who are working for large corporations. The difference is that in these organisations entrepreneurship – and critical thinking – is actively encouraged in the research and development departments and in management.

“The global economy is slowly coming out of a seige, so we must look to entrepreneurs for the kind of lateral thinking that sees opportunity in adversity. The days of  ‘low-hanging fruit’ are over, at least for the foreseeable future; however, where there is change, oppotunity can present itself for those with an eye for it,” Farr says.

“Employees tasked with leading the company must be given the leeway to find creative solutions for problems, discover new market perceptions and the manner in which the organisation creates value.”

Farr says a key approach to inculcating organisational entrepreneurship skills is to give employees a foundation from which to seize oppotunities and make them happen. Entrepreneurial managers are capable of conceiving and achieving new outcomes, and are also empowered to do so.

“South African companies should instil a sense of entrepreneurship in their organisations by creating spaces for staff to explore more experimental oppotunities.

Naturally, these should be aligned with core business objectives. They don’t need to be radical departures from what is offered and such space (physical or virtual) doesn’t have to be on a grand scale.

“Rather, managers should have the oppotunity to take ownership of progress, results and performance. Such approaches don’t imply neglecting standard good business practice, such as setting objectives and agreeing on desired outcomes.

“Any entrepreneurial endeavour carries a risk of failure, so senior managers need to provide the room for entrepreneurial thinking and action, while limiting exposure and managing the risk of failure. That highlights the essential role of mentorship in creating an entrepreneurial ethos. Senior managers should provide guidance and frameworks for ideas to come to the fore – and follow that up with recognition for successful endeavours.”

Farr says there is a difference between being an entrepreneur who starts a business and having an entrepreneurial mindset.

“The latter is beginning to play a more important role in business today as companies struggle to meet the unpredictable challenges of the 21st century. Entrepreneurial managers will inform the appropriate responses, and entrepreneurial employees will help organisations break through the corporate clutter,” Farr says.

CAREER TIMES Monday, March 29, 2010

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