Success in business depends on the environment in which it operates. During the permit license days in India, every economic activity was controlled. Business success depended on an entrepreneur’s capacity to get the right license from the administration. The barriers to entry in business were raised to keep competition out.
Today, we are living in a knowledge economy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is well known that on the economic front market forces prevail.
One expression that has lived the test of time is ‘empowering people’. It created a buzz in management circles initially, and then became a mainstay in politics. Today it is catching up in the world of business too. Is empowering people a key to creating a successful business?
Knowledge economy is the most important component in creating wealth economy. For creating new technology which provides a competitive edge, nurturing people becomes a vital necessity. It thereby helps to nurture and manage a business. Human beings cannot be creative under constraints. They need freedom of thought to be creative.
‘Empowering’ can be tricky too. After all, some are naturally born with power, some achieve power and some have power thrust upon them. Business organizations are formed by clusters of people, and people belong to all the three categories. But how do we ensure that the right kind of people get the right type of power or are empowered the right way so that they can bring I the right results?
It is presumed that ten percent are born with an innate capacity to lead, just as another ten are incapable of handling power. The majority—Eighty percent—depend on the system. Those who run enterprises have to focus on how to create a system by which people become empowered. Most modern organizations that are built can be traced to a widespread use of organizing people for a given objective.
Akio Morita in his book Made In Japan pointed out while the western business enterprises were like walls made up of bricks of standard dimensions, Japanese companies were like stone walls, where all the stones used are not of standard dimensions. Hence in building, the wall, one has to allow for individual idiosyncrasies and the non-uniformity of the shape of stones to get coherent walls.
The techniques to empower people start with leaders who should first put into practice what they preach. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of nation and a greatest freedom fighter of India, was the supreme example of the person who was able to influence millions of people in a vast country by practicing what he preached. The second important process is communication, for sharing the vision of the leaders. His vision of how colonialism was harsh on the poor man was communicated through peaceful non-cooperation movements.
There are three specific reasons for empowering people as the key for success in business today.
Firstly, many local cultures work together in today’s global economy. There are single countries like India where different regions have different ethnic cultures. The expression ‘think global act local’ has become an operational necessity for many enterprises that have multi locations. Day-to-day operations become difficult when local people are not empowered to take decision.
Secondly, in the knowledge economy, knowledge and skills matter a lot. Attracting the best talent and retaining it becomes very vital. This again is not only a business necessity but also an imperative for successfully competing in the market. In this context also, therefore, empowerment of people becomes a necessity.
Thirdly, even if the best talent is available, it will not flourish no creative results will come unless a suitable environment is created which will nurture such creativity. Every person has some spark in him and everyone has to rise to his full potential. In new horizons of technology it is not always possible to have people of experience and it is the youngsters who must innovate and learn to lead.