4 Ways to Foster the Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Hannah Lippe and Carly Franca

4 Ways to Foster the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Are large companies always using the right methods to create innovative products? Or do a couple of inventors working out of a garage have a better chance at successful innovation?

There are many theories.  We believe that no matter the size of your business, if you’re going to solve big problems, you have to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit, an approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change.

We’ve been living this reality for the past two years while working on the Fidelity student debt program, which we launched last fall.

Our work on student loans was a new area for Fidelity. We needed to think differently about how we could serve this customer need and create a product that would endure. As a result, it was particularly important that we rally together as an entrepreneurial team.

These are the mindsets that we suggest your startup team – whether at a big company or in your parents’ basement – master:

Be human centered

Just as you should focus on the customer when designing a product, it is equally important to focus on you colleagues when building a strong team.  Make your colleagues the heroes and think of yourself as the sidekick. Imagine your teammates with “super powers” as a way of recognizing and appreciating their strengths. This helps you focus on what your colleagues may need from you, rather than what you need from them.

Adopt a beginner’s mindset

Your teammates are expert and talented in their individual disciplines, whether developer, designer, product manager or researcher. Instead of always taking the lead, particularly when you’re outside your area of expertise, allow your teammates to lead and allow yourself to be led. You may be surprised by what they know, and how much you can learn from them. 

Collaborate Radically

As a way to spark new thinking, bring in unexpected and oppositional people to the team (see the authors collaborating in the photo). For example, our work often involves complex legal and regulatory requirements, which are important to protect our customers.

As we were developing the student debt program, we invited a few of our lawyers to partner closely with our team. Bringing them in early allowed us to see their concerns more clearly, and helped them to understand not only our product goals but also who we were trying to help.  Over time they became some of the most valuable contributors to, and advocates of, our work.

Embrace risk and failure

It’s important to practice looking ridiculous, and to embrace possible failure.

Although no one welcomes bruises to the ego, sharing the possibility of risk and failure with your teammates and your willingness to “go for it” can drive your team forward. To ground your team in the failure mindset, consider getting the whole team to engage in a group activity that might be unfamiliar or potentially embarrassing (group ballet lessons, anyone?). Taking risks together helps the team let go of the fear of failure.