Coworking and small business experts welcome UK Taskforce guidance

Entrepreneurial teams perform better if able to choose their own team members or their own ideas, finds new research from ESMT Berlin. However, this benefit to performance disappears if given autonomy to choose both. Scholars suggest autonomy can lead to better entrepreneurial team performance, but there are different types of autonomy. Viktoria Boss and Christoph Ihl, both from Hamburg University of Technology, and Linus Dahlander and Rajshri Jayaraman, both from ESMT Berlin, investigated how two types of autonomy affect the performance of entrepreneurial teams: choosing project ideas to work on and choosing team members to work with. The researchers ran a field experiment involving 939 students on a startup entrepreneurship course in which students are organised into teams to develop and pitch business ideas. Individuals were assigned to one of four scenarios: 1) choosing their team members and idea, 2) choosing their team members, 3) choosing their idea, or 4) choosing neither their team nor idea. In teams, students developed an entrepreneurial pitch deck; a presentation aimed at hypothetical venture capitalists to secure funding. Pitch decks were assessed on six criteria: novelty, feasibility, market potential, likelihood of success, likelihood of invitation for follow-up, and investment amount. Results show that teams with autonomy to choose ideas or team members outperform teams without the autonomy to choose either. However, the effect of choosing ideas is significantly stronger than the effect of choosing teams. Also, these benefits were not seen for teams granted full autonomy over choosing both ideas and teams. Professor Dahlander says, “Choosing ideas or teams can lead to a better match of ideas with team members’ interests and prior network contacts among team members, respectively. Also, granting autonomy increases feelings of confidence which can have a motivational effect. However, if confidence rises above a critical threshold, teams can experience overconfidence and exhibit complacency and lack of focus. This points to the possibility that those who chose both teams and ideas experienced too much confidence too soon, reducing subsequent effort.” These findings are important to the professionalisation of entrepreneurship, particularly incubator and accelerator programmes, most of which give aspiring entrepreneurs a choice on both ideas and team members. These results suggest granting autonomy solely over choosing ideas would lead to the highest performance outcome.

The UK Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce has published practical guidance for employers designed to support hybrid working models, in a bid to help organisations retain staff and improve working wellbeing.

The Flexible Working Taskforce is made up of organisations such as the CIPD, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Institue of Directors and the Trades Union Congress.

Commenting on the new guidance, CEO of coworking and small business support company Town Square Spaces Ltd (TownSq) Gareth Jones, said: “We welcome the new guidance published by the Flexible Working Taskforce and echo their calls for employers to engage with staff and embrace this new way of working.

“The facts are that the pandemic has brought with it a change to the way we work that means we will not be returning to the status quo. Workers have tasted a better way of doing things, and it’s no surprise that one in four people are considering quitting their jobs if employers refuse to adopt these new practicalities. Coined, ‘The great resignation’, this is simply the manifestation of how technology has enabled us to live and work the way we want to, with greater work/life balance and job satisfaction.

“We’re finding workers are making use of our spaces across the UK, and our Cowork Local scheme, which sees venues transform into shared workspaces, is growing in response to the demand for flexible and productive, working options closer to home. This way of working isn’t the future, it’s already happened – employers just need to catch up.”