“A Project of One’s Own”

Originally posted in ourĀ November 2021 Top of Mind Newsletter.

As we close out our discussion of building entrepreneurial culture, let’s consider one more option for fostering innovation: the side project. In his recent essay, Paul Graham thinks through the beauty of a self-directed project. That is, a project “that you’re doing voluntarily, rather than merely because someone told you to, and…that you’re doing it by yourself.”

Graham shares the wealth of positive emotions that come with doing something you want to do independently. The act of working on our own self-directed projects generates innovation; it empowers us to think of work differently and to take ownership of our work. We go from simply following orders to leaning into a project and finding creative solutions. The link between owning our projects and finding new solutions is evident and essential.

So, as we consider creating entrepreneurial behavior in our teams, let’s think about personal projects. These don’t have to be for the organization. In fact, when starting, that may be detrimental. Let your teams find their own problems to solve and get creative with their solutions. Let them collaborate when necessary and venture out on their own when they want. Importantly, trust that side projects will not take away from the work they do for your team. They may not only empower your employees but might also create an entrepreneurial system.

Find a project