by | Nov 12, 2020

What’s the difference in working with Gen Z entrepreneurs and the cultural stakeholders of a large company? Speed of decision-making, for one thing, based on the students in the entrepreneurial culture workshop I’ve been teaching in the Honors College of Georgia State University. I’ve also found them to be fluid in their creative thinking and willing to apply vivid imagination to their business goals.

In large companies, it’s a long process

Tribe often works with large companies to help define or evolve their values and other cultural language, like the purpose, vision or mission. The process is fairly involved, starting with discovery sessions with leadership and employees. (For more on this process, try this blog post.)

After we arrive at the recommended language, there generally is a series of meetings with various stakeholders. The process is lengthy, from a few months to much longer for some companies that require more consensus building throughout the organization.

We think of this process as more archeology than architecture. The culture is already there, and we’re trying to excavate its structure through conversations with both leadership and employees throughout the organization. We’re looking for the values people in the company won’t walk away from, even in a crisis. (For thoughts on how Covid-19 has tested company values, you might like this Forbes article.)

Entrepreneurs need creativity, not consensus

In contrast, these Gen Z entrepreneurs are working to articulate the culture they envision for their startups. They’re creating, rather than excavating. To that end, I introduced them to guided creative visualization. It’s a great way to break out of your logical, linear mind to cultivate more intuitive, symbolic thinking.

We’ve used this process with large companies several times, but I wasn’t sure how it would work with college kids on a Zoom call. I led them through a short meditation and then gave them various prompts to help imagine how they wanted it to feel to work in their startups, what they wanted their companies to stand for and what would make them most proud of their businesses.

The results were amazing. By the end of our hour-long session, each student had framed the structural foundation of their cultures — something that ordinarily takes months in a large company. They developed an inspirational purpose for their business and a solid set of values. The language for each one was fresh and exciting and reflected their unique vision as entrepreneurs. In subsequent classes, these Gen Z entrepreneurs developed some of the basics of their external brands, like the name of their company and their brand promise.

A center for self-actualization

Jaylan Johnson, who hopes to open a wellness center she’ll name Destiny’s Oasis, will build her culture on four core values: Be kind, Be honest, Be tenacious and Find peace. She wants to go beyond helping her customers relieve stress to help them self-actualize. To that end, she developed a brand promise that I find brilliant: Know you. Grow you.

Jahmani Taylor plans to start a legal service for people who ordinarily could not be able to afford legal representation. The purpose he developed, Being a voice for the voiceless, would also make a fantastic brand promise if it were shortened to A voice for the voiceless.

A creative partnership for animation

Anicet Noah is majoring in something called entrepreneurial media, a major that I wish colleges had offered back when I was bouncing around between the English Department and the Business School at Emory, along with internships at newspapers, magazines and the local cable station.

His startup will be an animation studio that offers unusually close partnership with his clients. He wants them to feel completely in control of the creative process. His working name for the business, which he developed after another of our creative visualization sessions, is Moon Salt Studios. His purpose is Bringing dreams to reality, and his brand promise is based in symbolic imagery that explains perfectly the experience he wants clients to have: You’re the hand. We’re the pen.

In the early days of Tribe, we made it a habit to buy stock in the public companies we worked with. Now I’m thinking startup capital for Gen Z entrepreneurs like the ones in my class would be a very good investment indeed.

Interested in creating new values or evolving existing ones? Tribe can help.

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