Culture Drives a Thriving Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

By Andrew Jennings, CCO – We often find ourselves in groups that we might never have imagined when we started Transcend back in 2002, and we were recently fortunate enough to be a sponsor for the Creative Cities event in Huntsville. This annual fundraiser is held by a group of talented individuals who help decide what the “future Huntsville” needs to look like to continue to attract top talent and businesses to our area.

Events like this always peek my interest as I am fascinated by complex systems, and building thriving municipal cultures is about as complex as it gets! The focus for this year’s Creative Cities Event was how to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. The guest speaker was Andy Stoll from the Kauffman Foundation.

As you might expect, the talk was both very interesting and challenging at the same time. Why was it challenging? Put simply, we need to change the way we think to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem. We have to move beyond an Industrial Age mindset and instead, think about connecting. As Andy very eloquently identified, “People are the new companies.”

It was this last statement that really got me thinking. After all, this is what we focus on at Transcend . . . the idea that every organization is only as successful as the individuals who work there, whether in senior leadership positions or front-line activities. Every organization and every community is just a collection of people.

We found our Tribe!

What do I mean by that statement? Well, as human beings we still carry some of the programming that drove our ancestors into tribes and small communities. We all need to find a group of people that we “belong” with to do our best work.

When we work with our customers on longer engagements that are focused on bringing lasting change to an organization, the main focus is to build a high performing organizational culture. Certainly, we help develop robust, implementable strategic plans and leadership development programs. However, once these elements are in place, it’s the culture that attracts and retains the caliber of people who move companies from surviving to thriving.

It is the culture of an organization, driven by its values, that enables individuals to see how they fit. It’s how we identify our “tribe.” If an organization is comprised of high performing individuals, what type of person do you think would be attracted to that organization? High performers, of course. Why is that? Well, it’s fairly simple really. We all like to be around people we share values with; it’s what allows us to build trust quickly. We already feel we have some idea of what drives the other individuals in the organization, as they are just like us.

Another component of high performing organizations is the recognition that individuals are not continually competing against one another, so they stay focused on the results of their team and ultimately the organization. This leads to a more collaborative mentality and removes the need to be an expert in everything.

Which brings me back to the similarities between what we work on with our customers, and the presentation Andy Stoll made on building an entrepreneurial ecosystem. To be successful, communities that want to foster entrepreneurship, which is a key economic driver, need to adopt an open and inclusive culture that freely provides access and information for the Fearless individuals who are risking everything to realize their dream, and with it bring prosperity to their community.

Take a moment to look at your organization; What does it stand for? What is expected of the individuals that work there? If you were to ask your employees and the larger community around you, how would they identify the culture of your organization?

Now take a step back; does your organization reflect your own personal values? Fearless Leaders recognize when there might be a mismatch, and they take action to create a culture that reflects the best version of the organization they created. What happens next, is that the people who you always felt would be a good match but appeared beyond your reach come and find you—because they identify as part of your tribe.

As Andy said, we have moved beyond the Industrial Age. We are now living in the “connected age” and culture is the primary driver of economic development. Get connected. Find your tribe. Let’s help build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in our community.

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