U.S. employees are hungry to be entrepreneurial, but most believe their companies don’t do enough to support and reward their efforts to generate ideas, according to a new study by Accenture.

More than half (52 percent) of the 800 corporate employees surveyed and business decision makers responding to the survey say they have pursued an entrepreneurial idea inside their company, but only 20 percent believe their company offers enough support for developing new ideas.

“Companies need a managed process of idea generation that rewards risk taking, but which effectively harvests entrepreneurial ideas. A Montessori-like approach to entrepreneurialism is what corporate America needs to unlock the latent innovation present in many companies.”

The study, “Corporate Innovation is Within Reach: Nurturing and Enabling an Entrepreneurial Culture“, revealed that although 53 percent of surveyed employees say companies are better at supporting entrepreneurism than they were five years ago, a number of obstacles get in the way of their entrepreneurial zeal.

Over one third (36 percent) say the biggest hurdle is their current job keeping them too busy to pursue new ideas. But they also cite a lack of management support (20 percent) and a lack of incentives for generating entrepreneurial ideas (13 per cent).

Additionally, more than half (53 percent) of those surveyed say their company does not support ideas from all levels of the workforce and 77 percent say that new ideas are rewarded only when they are implemented and proven to work. As a result, more than one in four (27 percent) have avoided pursuing an idea with their company out of concerns of negative consequences.

The study shows that a lack of management support of entrepreneurialism can pose risks for corporate America. Sixty nine percent of employees surveyed think that large American companies risk losing their entrepreneurial lead over large foreign companies in the next decade unless they change to encourage greater entrepreneurial activity. As part of its research, Accenture also surveyed 200 self-employed individuals and found that 93 percent had pursued an entrepreneurial idea within their previous company but 57 percent of those respondents said their employer was not supportive.

“Small start-ups are crucial to our economy, but so is corporate America and our large companies risk losing their global entrepreneurial lead if they fail to nurture new ideas within their organizations,” said Matt Reilly, managing director, Accenture Management Consulting, North America.

“Rewarding only successful ideas developed by an elite group is no longer sufficient. Employees are better connected and more in tune with customers than ever before, so companies must encourage innovation throughout their entire workforces by incentivizing risk taking and rewarding efforts rather than just outcomes.”

Misdirected enthusiasm

Accenture’s research indicates that corporate executives are having some difficulty channeling the entrepreneurial enthusiasm of their employees. Not only have a majority of those surveyed pursued an idea, but 85 percent of respondents say these ideas have been primarily focused on internal improvements rather than external.

“Businesses need look no further than inside their four walls for entrepreneurial ideas,” said Reilly. “In fact, they are more likely to be overwhelmed by ideas that they are unable to manage or channel. Our survey suggests that a large volume of misdirected ideas are being pursued that may create little value. In response, companies should avoid dampening entrepreneurial spirit and yet they need to become clearing houses of business cases, swiftly selecting innovative ideas that will generate returns and culling those that have less chance of success.”

The need to encourage more ideas beneficial to the bottom line is supported by the finding that 89 percent of respondents agree that an entrepreneurial attitude has the potential to lead to new ideas that can promote growth. While a small majority believe that entrepreneurialism is a trait that some people inherently have, almost half (47 percent) think that it is a skill that can be cultivated. These findings suggest that employers can more actively foster risk-taking attitudes and direct staff more effectively to focus on ideas that can enhance revenues and profits.

The Accenture study concludes by recommending ‘push’ and ‘pull’ actions for business leaders that will help companies nurture entrepreneurial talent while channeling it more effectively:

  • Push: Encourage senior management to incorporate appropriate levels of risk and tolerances of failure within business units; create programs to promote the company’s entrepreneurial culture and clarify the rules of the game for employees; implement processes and infrastructures to enable collaborative idea generation.
  • Pull: Implement clear incentive policies that offer appropriate rewards for idea generation, not just successful implementation; establish a “clearing house’ process by which business cases for new ideas can be cleared, accelerated or shut down; create an internal ecosystem including mentors, outside business angel investors and venture capital expertise to accelerate assessment and commercialization.

“To succeed at a macro level, companies must accept a degree of failure at a micro level,” said Reilly. “Companies need a managed process of idea generation that rewards risk taking, but which effectively harvests entrepreneurial ideas. A Montessori-like approach to entrepreneurialism is what corporate America needs to unlock the latent innovation present in many companies.”

Read the full research at: www.accenture.com/US-Innovation.

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company

Source: Accenture