How rules create entrepreneurs

How do giants learn to dance? How do large corporations fire up individuals from within to become risk-taking entrepreneurs helping the company develop new ideas, products and services?

by Business Strategy Review
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

This was Rosabeth Moss Kanter's title for her book on how large companies can be nimble, written in 1992 and there are still people debating the issue. Now Russell King, executive at the mining corporation Anglo-American tackles the same theme. He takes it as read that large companies need to and can develop entrepreneurs from within large, rules-based organisations.

Unlike others, however, he thinks rules are a boon and not an obstacle for companies that want to develop flair and risk-taking. But, he says, there need to be clear boundaries and lines of accountability so that employees know how far they can go in pursuit of a new company goal; he says the company must be crystal clear about what it is and what its corporate aspirations are (Anglo-American is a 'focused' mining company, a term one hopes the employees will understand); and thirdly, there should be a reward system that encourages entrepreneurial behaviour.

To illustrate the last point, he cites a few scenarios such as:"People become intensely risk-averse because whenever the company finds anyone doing anything wrong, that person gets 'nuked' or 'flamed'".

Entrepreneurial hearts and minds
Russell King
Business Strategy Review, Winter 2006 
Review by Morice Mendoza  

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