An entrepreneurship wave is sweeping the world. At the recently concluded World Economic Forum on Africa, this was cited as one of the key trends in Africa.
With the inspiration provided by Steve Jobs and the emergence of highly successful young and successful role models like Mark Zuckerberg, Phanindra Sama, Evan Spiegel and so on, the wave is continuing to grow, especially among the younger generation who are the biggest enablers of this entrepreneurship movement.
Incubators and accelerators are mushrooming in every parts of the world from Cordoba in Argentina to Kochi in India. There are specialised tools like Business Model Canvas, Lean Start up and Design thinking to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop their ideas in a structured fashion.
Entrepreneurship is not restricted only to businesses. A young individual or a group of young individuals now believe that they can solve complex problems on their own. With increased access to capital, low barriers to entry and reduced risk as far as getting back into job tracks are concerned; this increasing interest in entrepreneurship especially among the younger generation has three major implications for large companies.
Business Models need to be more ‘OPEN’. Attracting top class talent to work for large organisations will increasingly become a challenge. Enabled by technology and by increased access to capital, any young talented individual can set up a shop anywhere in the world and can create a breakthrough business model that can disrupt large corporations. Not only are large corporations loosing top talent, but they also run the risk of getting disrupted by the start-ups launched by this talent.
Large companies can leverage the asymmetries between them and start-ups. Start-ups excel in paving the way for the first mile of a business while large companies can take proven business models to the last mile because of their scale and reach. One of the ways companies are leveraging these young talents and ideas is by designing an open innovation model in areas which are very strategic to a company. Networking giant Cisco launched a new start-up innovation program called Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) that allows Cisco to directly engage and support early-stage start-ups working on game-changing ideas for the Internet of Things, Cloud services, Big Data/Analytics and other areas that are strategic to Cisco’s future.
Through their engagement with these start-ups, Cisco aims to connect the previously unconnected and see the future direction of its industry as well as opportunities to co-create new business models. It also helps Cisco to learn what trends are affecting their business model and prepare to defend against disruptions. Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Unilever etc. set up their own VC arms that invest in promising start-ups in their strategic focus areas. Large companies also partner with incubators and accelerators to stay closer to start-ups.
The Global Community Partners of the Global Shapers Community, Coca Cola and The Abraaj Group, launch annual global challenges inviting scalable models from the Global Shapers and supporting the winners with a seed fund. This gives a sense of what issues young people care about in different parts of the world and allows them to design their sustainability strategies in tune with the realities of the world.
The winners of the past challenges address a range of issues such as empowering young people and women in Phnom Penh, Ankara and Rabat, developing myoelectric prosthetic limbs for disabled women and children living in rural areas of Kolkata, tracking crime patterns for a safer culture in Puebla, and generating electricity through solar power in Nairobi. ‘Open’ models are increasingly becoming mainstream in various industries. Companies can use these models to send employees to work in these start-ups to a) fulfil some of the entrepreneurial ambitions of their employees; b) bring back the start-up culture into their organization; and c) Prepare to defend against disruption
The changing scope of marketing. As business models become more open, the Marketing departments need to adapt and change. In a way, one of the biggest shifts in the marketer’s role is the emergence of community management as a key function and the success of a marketing manager lies in her ability to engage and manage communities in both the real and virtual worlds to create meaningful value for the company as well as for the customer.
Companies like Apple initially created online forums that leveraged the power of peer networks to solve routine problems faced by customers and in turn created value for both the customers as well as for the company. Over a period of time, the iPhone/iPad platform enabled individual developers and small companies to develop apps and created the iOS developer communities.
One of the most successful 3D Animation software, Maya, currently owned by Autodesk, developed an API during its initial versions that were used by developers to develop specialised plugins that will help the animators. Maya then integrated some of the most successful plugins as a regular feature into their software and it turned out to be one of the most widely used software in the animation industry. In the case of Apple and Maya, value creation happens through the power of communities enabled by an open business model. In addition to managing entrepreneurial communities, the marketers also have to create value through online communities created by platforms like Nike+ and Jawbone and also manage the fury of customers who vent their anger in social media whenever they experience bad service.
Marketing departments now have to move from ‘Customer Relationship Management’ to include ‘Community Management’. This will require them to develop skills that are usually developed by working in government as they now have to create guidelines, policies, rule of engagement and be available all the time.
HR needs to reimagine the future of work. HR Leaders need to reimagine job descriptions, organizational culture and also, training and development to leverage this growing trend.
A recent survey done among the Global Shapers Community, a community of high potential young leaders in the age group of 20-29, revealed that these young people rated ‘an opportunity to make a difference to society’ as the top thing that they look for in a job.
Jaideep Bansal is a Global Shaper from the Chandigarh Hub. He works for a leading multinational corporation in India after completing his mechanical engineering degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. Last year, Jaideep joined the Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) to set up sustainable energy and education based infrastructure in the remote Himalayan regions. As part of the expedition, Jaideep, along with GHE team, carried solar equipment on horseback walking in the steep mountains at 14,000ft for more than two days to reach a village which has never seen electricity before.
The team electrified the village after undertaking a gruelling journey in the Himalayas. The villagers danced and celebrated this special moment in their lives and Jaideep had one of the most fulfilling experiences of his lifetime. The inspiration and impact led him to take a two month sabbatical to repeat this journey to light six villages at over 14,000ft in the Himalayas this year. How are we going to engage the Jaideeps of the world who want to undertake such challenges? Companies like SAP are now offering social sabbaticals to encourage their employees to pursue some of their personal passions that give them the entrepreneurial kick and it is important that companies start figuring out how to integrate more purpose into their job descriptions. Highly talented young people are not just looking for companies with a good purpose but also jobs that can give more purpose to their lives.
Bridging the ‘approach-divide’ between Gen X and Gen Y. While the traditional training approaches are still relevant, companies need to increasingly think of how they can create an ‘entrepreneurial culture in their organizations to stay in sync with the needs of the young people who look for entrepreneurial challenges. HR also needs to invest heavily in training their senior executives to learn the young person’s way of doing things.
As the traditional approaches to manage and govern are slowly becoming outdated, HR teams now need to find new ways to facilitate and bridge the ‘approach-divide’ between Gen X and Gen Y to create the entrepreneurial culture. Eileen Guo is a Global Shaper and the founding curator of the Norfolk Hub in the U.S. A few years ago, Eileen went to Afghanistan and launched Impassion Media, Afghanistan’s first digital media agency. She has lived in one of the most difficult conditions in the region incubating a new business. In September 2013, Eileen brought together over 200 of Afghanistan’s social media users from 24 provinces and abroad for the country’s first ever social media summit, aimed at encouraging social media use around the country.
The lessons that Eileen learned in Afghanistan are very unusual with rich insights on designing for extremes, building an eco-system to target non-consumers and how to build and operate new businesses in such complex settings will be of great value to a business leader. HR departments need to think of how they can design scalable ‘reverse mentoring’ programs for senior executives wherein they can bring such experiences and insights through young talents like Eileen. HR needs to identify and integrate young and exceptional talents into the boards of their organisations to disrupt the status quo at the very top and enable an entrepreneurial environment.
Entrepreneurship is redefining every industry and young people are the enablers of this movement. Understanding the above implications, engaging young talents through their business models and rethinking how different departments within an organization can capture value from this important trend are important to the long term success of any global corporation.
Author: Vijay Raju is the Associate Director and Head of Partnerships for the Global Shapers Community at the World Economic Forum. Vijay is also a Global Leadership Fellow.
Image: Young entrepreneurs work at the Amman-based Oasis 500, a seed investment firm which finances start-up firms in the region’s information technology sector, November 2, 2011. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed