Companies are consistently pressured to innovate products and services to drive greater benefit to customers. Now, we have more data than ever on customer habits and preferences, but responding to customer needs can still be a challenge for many businesses grappling with increasing competition, legacy systems, and a non-agile workforce.

While you may face challenges, there are a few key things you can do to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among your team. This will enable your team to work around the hurdles and unlock new and creative ways to solve customers’ problems.

Turn Your Employees into Inventors

Ford, a 116-year old company, famously did it. How? By challenging its workforce to invent something and providing resources to carry the idea forward.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in our day to day jobs, but if you give your team space to apply blue-sky thinking, you might be surprised by the results. Not every idea will be worth the investment to move forward, but by dedicating time each week for creation and resources to the ideas with the most legs, you can foster a culture of innovation.

Get Creative about Goal-Setting and Reward Systems

In our recent 2019 Talent Trends Report, 36% of respondents pointed the need for greater variety in rewards programs. It’s easy to fall into the trap that money is the only reward that an employee is looking for.

While being compensated fairly is a significant factor to employee satisfaction, many are not fueled solely by money. Think about what types of rewards and goals you can provide that motivate.

Take the Stigma out of Failing

The mantra: fail fast, fail often, has fueled thousands of entrepreneurs. The concept is far from new. In fact, Thomas Edison famously failed 9,000 times before inventing the light bulb. But somewhere along the way, leaders have built cultures that do not give enough room for failure.

For this model to work, it’s important not to focus on the failure, but the learning from it and the pivot. In some of our first social media programs, we tried creating LinkedIn curated groups and quickly found out that we were better off joining existing communities to continue to conversations. Had we not tried and ‘failed,’ we wouldn’t have had the same rate of success we did in driving industry conversations with a wider audience.

Help Them Find the White Space

When you’re looking for new solutions to bring to market, start with your clients. Ask them open-ended questions on what keeps them up at night. From there, pull these ideas into solutions then build the business case. Is there demand? How will you take it to market? Do you have research to support it?

Encourage your team to talk to other departments or to clients to help define the white space in the market.

Give Permission to Experiment, Learn, and Try

In many ways, this goes hand-in-hand with allowing your team to fail. If you build a culture that isn’t afraid to fail, you’ll be giving your team permission to experiment. The next step is putting parameters in place that encourage this. Set aside 10% of your marketing budget to try experimental initiatives that your team champions. Pull together the proposal, kick the tires, and take it forward quickly.

When thinking about fueling entrepreneurship in your teams, it’s essential to think of it as an organizational function. If it’s treated as a ‘nice to have’ or something to promote ‘when you have time,’ it will never happen. Try implementing these practices slowly to help foster entrepreneurial thinking among your teams. As with any shift, it can take time for your team to understand and see the support they’ll receive by applying innovative thinking to their roles.