The CEO of $6.7 billion Smartsheet says that the key to staying ahead of the curve is encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset in employeesOctober 24, 2020
- Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader thinks businesses should encourage and allow employees to have an entrepreneurial mindset at work.
- If businesses want to adapt quickly during situations like the ongoing pandemic, it requires innovation from all levels of the company, not just leadership, he said on Thursday at Business Insider's Global Trends Festival.
- That starts with a company culture that encourages this mindset, but also software tools and the freedom to work on new ideas — without managerial approval, he said.
- "It's not good enough to just have an open door policy. Open door policies, I think they're nice concepts, but they actually don't lead to much," Mader said.
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Mark Mader, the CEO and cofounder of $6.7 billion work management tool Smartsheet, thinks the key to staying ahead of the curve in situations like the ongoing pandemic is encouraging employees to have an entrepreneurial mindset. To adapt quickly and serve customers, he suggests, innovation can't only be the jurisdiction of leadership.
"I'm such a big believer that for companies to thrive, they need to be in this continuous cycle of improvement and identifying what is going to fuel their company next," Mader said on Thursday at Business Insider's Global Trends Festival. "I believe that there is huge opportunity for companies to unlock the ideas and creativity at the edge of their organization, as opposed to thinking of it as this tiny group of people who set strategy."
That starts with creating a company culture where people feel encouraged to think creatively, and not just stick to their specific jobs, he said. At Smartsheet that starts in the employee orientation process: Mader tells new hires that they are coming into the company with a fresh perspective and they should use that to inform how they approach their jobs. He also encourages them to share their ideas with peers to push them forward.
Mader also said that Smartsheet itself, the company's eponymous product, is a good platform for this kind of mindset, given that it can track progress and make it easier to create new tools for measuring metrics, without much technical knowledge.
How software tools can help encourage creative thinking at work
For example, early on in the pandemic, a new employee at the company's Seattle headquarters took the initiative to use Smartsheet to create a dashboard for employees to track updates on the pandemic and stay-at-home directives, and that could also keep track of who was transitioning to remote work. Mader praises this employee not only for having the idea, but also for seeing it through to completion rather than waiting on managerial approval.
"It's not good enough to just have an open door policy. Open door policies, I think they're nice concepts, but they actually don't lead to much," Mader said. "I think especially the younger workforce today expects to be able to take action, not just talk to somebody about it."
In the broader view, Mader said that the availability of tools like Smartsheet can actually help professionals develop in their career, allowing them to similarly mock up functional apps that demonstrate their ideas better than any meeting ever could. That's the sort of thing that makes any company's leadership take notice, he said.
"It's this notion of show me, don't tell me," Mader said.
Mader suggests that this is a major reason why Smartsheet is investing in adding more automation and so-called low code/no code app development features to its platform. The idea is to help workers do their jobs more quickly and efficiently.
"Speed and nimbleness of solutions is going to become increasingly important," Mader said.
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