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Enterprising Culture: The Secret to Business Success in an Always-Changing Environment

Globalization, shifting societal norms, and new technologies are changing the way businesses must operate. Last year, APCO Worldwide set out to understand what prepares companies to succeed in an increasingly disruptive and changing world.

Through extensive interviews with 520 c-suite and VP-level executives from Fortune 500 companies, we found that 39 percent of executives feel confident in managing predictable events; however, their confidence declined dramatically on the more unexpected and fast-moving challenges. Of the factors contributing to confidence in the future of their business: a strong Enterprising Culture.

During a time when a third of leaders and mid-level managers anticipate challenges with hiring and retaining qualified workers, a strong Enterprising Culture can be a differentiating factor in future-proofing an organization; and it’s no surprise: cultures that are forward-looking, reward curiosity, candor, risk-taking and reinvention have greater business success and improved business performance. They have more engaged employees, and are better able to leverage this workforce to advocate on their behalf.

So how do companies build strong Enterprising Cultures? Based on qualitative responses to a range of disruptors and risk challenges, and quantitative research as well as statistical analysis, we found four indicators of Enterprising Culture that companies should focus on today to future-proof their organizations.

  • Inspire collaboration and learning. Knowledge sharing, and collaboration is an integral part of driving curiosity among employees. Some of the most successful collaborations happen when different skill sets, perspectives and strengths come together to learn and grow. Encouraging collaboration and offering opportunities for continuous learning creates an engaging workforce and increases employee retention and job satisfaction.
  • Empower employees. Organizations have a responsibility to create a work environment that helps foster the ability and desire of employees to act in empowered ways. When self-direction is a norm, employees will begin to feel a sense of ownership, responsibility and accountability that helps benefit them and the organization. It’s important to encourage employees to act with a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making and remove barriers that limit their ability to feel empowered.
  • Communicate vision and values. Having a shared vision and set of values is needed from the bottom to the top of the organization. This helps provide a common understanding, delivers company buy-in, and creates the enthusiasm of employees to work collectively toward company success. Clearly and effectively communicate vision and values through leadership and longer-tenured employees, help employees understand how their position is vital to achieving the organization’s goals, and implement opportunities to internally through quarterly company-wide meetings or newsletters.
  • Reward risk-taking. Organizations that cultivate a culture of smart risk-taking and experimentation inspires innovation. Model risk-taking behavior among employees by defining smart risks and clearly communicating limits. It’s not mistakes that lead to success, it’s risk-taking. That’s why it’s important for leaders create a safe environment that encourages and nurtures risk taking while also rewarding smart failures.

To learn more about APCO’s Agility model, a prescriptive diagnostic tool that helps leaders “future-proof” their organizations across three major dimensions of Agility – Culture, Leadership and Influence, click here.

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