Many think that being your own boss is the ultimate work goal. I've essentially been my own boss (self-employed) for over a decade. The reality is that it's the creative/business partners you're trying to keep happy and all the clients (also funders, customers, audience members, commissioners, etc.) who are the boss. You're still working to their timelines, to their budgets, to their aims. Or at the very least; skewing your own work in the right direction to satisfy them. Very few will last long doing only exactly what they want to do, when and where.
If you're a performing artist of some sort - whether that's theatre, dance, music or any other form - then you still need to put your show on at a time and place convenient to audience members; even if that hasn't been dictated by a funder. Similarly, you need to suit your fellow artists - performers, technicians, front of house staff and many more. Yes if you're 'the boss' and are paying everyone then you get to determine most of the parameters. But you'll either pay the earth for it, lose good people, or not attract enough income.
What's more, even the big name Artistic Directors or 'Founders' of theatre companies still have to follow suit as above. Although they'll likely also have a board full of people scrutinising their work as well - and depending on the legal set-up - might just be able to displace you anyway. Think Steve Jobs getting ousted from Apple some years back.
So what does this rant have to do with being a creative intrapreneur? It's recognising that your enterprising spirit might be just as well placed inside an existing organisation as it is on your own.
Yes there's room for innovators, yes you might have a hankering for risk taking, yes you want complete independence. But there are organisations out there crying for good people to bring fresh ideas, new approaches and energy to a role. And there are good organisations that will value your ideas, that will support you to grow, and will likely reward you for enterprising spirit. Anywhere that you unduly exceed expectations in a role which doesn't reward you at the very least with recognition and development support (if not pay rises) probably isn't somewhere an intrapreneur wants to be.
A creative entrepreneur is different than just a good manager, or even when compared to an exceptional employee. There are people out there who do their job justice. Who really serve the people that they're tasked to do - whether that's as a manager, creator or customer facing role. I've met some outstanding front of house staff. They may not have been rewarded with promotion after promotion, but maybe that's not what they want, or what they value in a job. Some prefer not to have the stresses of more responsibility.
I also feel that being a creative intrapreneur takes work. It takes another set of skills that maybe lone entrepreneurs might not have - they're negotiation skills, quick thinking and critical but fair analysis. Oh, and teamwork. Of course someone running their own project/business needs these skills in some way. But when you're embedded in an organisation these are especially important. Here's why:
- Negotiating your position, setting your objects and method of work needs to happen in consideration of those around you and the processes already in place. So negotiation is key for a successful outcome.
- Quick thinking can be critical when others around you are relying on you. Working alone, you might have the luxury of having time and space to contemplate a solution. Being a cog in a larger machine means that, if you develop a fault or delay something, another part of the machine might not turn as expected.
- Critical analysis (which is fair on your team mates / managers / staff) must consider the macro environment. This questions what impact will your actions have on the wider organisation, or even on the industry around you. This isn't about being an 'evolutionist' or a 'disruptor' (two terms which often apply to entrepreneurs), it's about analysing your plan and how you will reach B from A in an effective way. It might still mean shaking things up, but it's considered and it doesn't put undue work or stress on others - whether that's a project leader or a financial administrator you've never personally met…
- Teamwork. Work as a team. Entrepreneurs usually have the luxury of staff members or colleagues that can support you. Whether they are sounding boards or those who can offer practical support, make the most of them. Delegation might be more easily achieved as an Entrepreneur rather than an Entrepreneur.
There's lots more research and advice out there for how to be an excellent employee and how to have an enterprising nature in business. Here's a few links I've collected for you to ponder:
- A site with some example of successful projects
- Elite Business Magazine has an article on it too
- Here's the Evening Standard's how to guide
- An interesting blog post
So is being a creative entrepreneur for you? How will you become one? This last question might seem tricky. But my advice in short - find a job that feel you will enjoy doing, that you can apply experience and thought to, and then excel at it. Find your opportunities, find your parameters, and find a manager that is willing to support you. You might try 2 or 3 places. You might need to move around an organisation itself. But always present your enterprising spirit at interview stage - don't be cocky, but be confident and show you have ideas.
Show that you will consider the existing set-up, the existing practices, and the staff across the organisation. You're not a bull in a china shop. But you are a talented dancer prancing around the china shop with elegance and grace - carving your movements with thought, skills and precision all the way to your goal. Patience might be needed - delicious bread isn't baked in 5 minutes. Experience might need to be sought from volunteering opportunities (Picasso wasn't born with his skill). I'll stop with the analogies now.
I've cheated a bit with this post. I volunteered the title as part of our series to support young people who have completed their Arts Awards and considering a career. Then I got asked to write it. So then I thought; it's not just those who've finished Arts Award who might find a takeaway. Gold Arts Award participants must demonstrate development and insights to the arts industry/organisations, they must develop leadership skills. It's why I believe that Gold Arts Award is also perfect for early career creative professionals.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you've applied your enterprising spirit to the world of work. And how you have found being enterprising whilst doing your Gold Award.