Hal Gregersen on what makes a successful entrepreneur – “How do I as a leader create a safe space around me so that whatever my cultural environment is, provocative questions surface?”
On fostering entrepreneurship: The data would say about one-third of our creative capacity is DNA. The other two-thirds is the world we grow up in and work in. So there are things I can do to foster it in children.
Young kids ask a thousand questions—because they don’t believe we’re listening. When they conclude that we’ve understood, they’ll stop asking. Listen carefully to those questions. When kids come home, instead of asking them, “What did you learn today?” Ask them, “What questions did you ask today?” or “What questions do you still have to ask today?”
It could be observing, networking and experimenting. Have dinners, have lunches, do things with people who don’t look, think or act like you. One of the biggest gifts we can give our children is the opportunity to live in a different country. That will give them an opportunity to see things differently and create like nobody else can.
Every innovator we interviewed, almost without exception, had adults in their lives who paid attention to these skills when they were growing up, and it made all the difference.
On sparking creativity at companies: Innovative companies are led by innovative chief executives. They spend their time asking provocative questions, observing the world like anthropologists, networking with people who don’t think, act or talk like them. They are willing to experiment and try new things.
You have to live it. When it comes to innovation, it is like hyperspeed in terms of the importance of walking the talk.
When I’m asking somebody else to do that in my organization, and if I’m not doing it myself, that massive disconnect tells people, “I’m not going there. You’re asking me to ask provocative questions but you don’t do it yourself? You’re asking me to spend my time and energy that I could use to deliver results, and you don’t do that? I’m not going there if you don’t go there.”