10 Common Mistakes In Developing an Enterprise Culture

Many projects designed to stimulate an enterprise culture fall foul of one or more of the following:

  1. they focus too much on the individual and not enough on the enterprising ecosystem – failing to address social context – instead trying to help individuals to ‘overcome the odds’
  2. believing that the reasons for low levels of enterprise are because we have not provided the right building – commissioning the latest interpretation of the ‘catalytic space’ – hoping that if we build it they will come
  3. failing to educate and engage other stakeholders and agencies involved in community development about the role of enterprise in economic and social development.  Helping them to see that this is about education and the development of human potential
  4. focusing on persuasion rather than education – using ‘carrots and sticks’ to drive people towards enterprise – rather than helping them to clarify their own self interest and then developing their power to realise it
  5. pretending that enterprise is a good thing – instead of portraying it in a balanced way as a double edged sword – a powerful vehicle for life that can crash horribly or take you on a wonderful journey
  6. skimming communities for those with most developed ‘enterprise potential’ and helping them take the last few steps – instead of helping those who have not explored their enterprise potential take the first few steps – ‘Have you got a great business idea?’
  7. designing interventions around 121, 12-several and 12 many interventions – instead of around word of mouth and other network effects – failing to train gatekeepers to act as educators and enthusiastic referrers
  8. designing services that are policy led (designed to achieve specific policy goals) rather than client centred – designed to help clients to become more enterprising in their own terms
  9. starting from where we want to start rather than from where clients are
  10. failing to recognise that strong, long term relationships are critical to building the trust and support necessary to enable people to take more enterprising actions – and a bonus number 11
  11. failing to build teams capable of starting sustainable growth oriented business – instead pandering to the myth of the lone entrepreneur bravely riding the range.

Any that I have missed?

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  1. Spot on again Mike.

    My visit to the Digilabs in Wales http://snurl.com/jyoba showed me it IS possible to build local community structures which foster networks and allow people to experiment with little bits of enterprise in a supportive environment and which does not sell them the myth that enterprise is purely all about business, or that business is an all-or-nothing thing.

    We need to ensure that people can experiment, try things and fail if necessary, without the world coming crashing in if it doesn’t work. And community enterprise, which builds local social and economic capital as well as individual wealth, is as important, if not more important, as small business development.

  2. do something that is funky and fun, and people will engage, learn and innovate. Small oaks out of tiny acorns grow. We have done this in our village and it is amazing what people do if you give them the seeds of enterprise. It is human nature to be curious and see what happens ‘if’, but many are scared by ‘t’internet’ and all the stories, and they also don’t want to look like fools. Engaging with simple tasks like uploading photos to picasa albums to share with family and friends shows them the nice side, they then build confidence and move on. Trying to get funding for doing this sort of thing is impossible, so we JFDI using free software and web apps. We got a community service medal in 2005, but our real reward is setting people free from their misconceptions and seeing them move into the global village. So yes, the points you made are proved here. How you would address point 3 is beyond me, I have never been able to convince the education system or the funding system that our method works.

  3. Not surprisingly I will always promote the need for personal development as a core aspect of promoting enterprise in schools. Even though I am a psychologist and drive the personal development agenda I know that enterprise is a particularly social activity and requires the support and challenge of those around us.

  4. As I put in a bid to a local LEP to adress areas of low enterprise performance I’m glad I stopped by here to have a reality check. I think we have some aspects of it covered Mike. I don’t think it is perfect but it is a small step in the right direction. I will let you know how we get on…


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