When you think of famous entrepreneurs, do you often think of those with against-all-odds success stories such Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Richard Branson? Do you ever stop to think about what other skills or attributes they have had that has helped them become well-known business moguls? Did you wonder if they were natural entrepreneurs in the crib or if they learned these skills, and if you could as well?
“Scholars, business experts and venture capitalists say entrepreneurs can emerge at any stage of life and from any realm, and they come in all personality types and with any grade point average,” wrote Joe Robinson, author of Work to Live, in Entrepreneur magazine.
Shawn Osborne, CEO of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, said that, previously entrepreneurs were people who started new companies, but that now, “the concept of being an entrepreneur has definitely changed. When it comes to entrepreneurship, it’s not what you do but how you think that matters.” Now, he says, people are more likely to see entrepreneurs as people who use an ‘entrepreunial mindset.’
According to Osborne, this mindset can be broken down into eight key parts:
- Recognizing opportunity – can you see ways to make things better?
- Risk tolerance – you may not be comfortable with risk at the onset, but to be successful, you must learn to tolerate it.
- Creativity and innovation – Can you apply creative thinking and use ‘unconventional tools and approaches’ in order to succeed?
- Future orientation – Are you future-focussed and always thinking about what will come next?
- Flexibility and adaptability – Are you prepared to cope with change, obstacles or setbacks without getting derailed?
- Initiative and self-direction – how motivated are you to start and stick with an idea or project?
- Critical thinking and problem solving — are you good at thinking analytically and ‘outside the box’ to solve problems?
- Communication and collaboration – are you effective at sharing, communicating and working with others?
Even if you don’t have a burning idea that could change the world, don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur, or prefer the stability of a regular paycheck, learning and harnessing the entrepreneurial mindset – ‘passion for an idea, perseverance, resourcefulness, open-mindedness, and a ‘sponge-like nature,’ according to Nathan Resnick, CEO of Sourcify – will still benefit you tremendously. In the face of the growing ‘gig economy’ and the unpredictable, highly changeable nature of business, everyone needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
Paul Brown, the author of Own Your Future, puts it best. “Everyone will need to master entrepreneurial thought and action to thrive in the increasingly uncertain world in which we live,’ he wrote in his best-selling book. ‘Obviously,’ he said, ‘If you are out of work, you may be forced to become an entrepreneur … or add entrepreneurial skills to your job-hunting repertoire.” He also warns that people who have an entrepreneurial mindset will forge ahead, even within conventional business or corporate environments, leaving behind those who don’t use such thinking. “Even if you work for the best company in the world,’ he cautions, ‘Someone could acquire the firm tomorrow or a new invention could render your entire industry obsolete.”
Sounds easy enough, right? But, what if you are not born with this mindset? Can it be developed? Are these traits that can be taught?
Osborne, who has been studying entrepreneurs since the 1980s, believes emphatically that the answer is yes. Brown goes even further. ‘It’s relatively easy to become an entrepreneur,’ he said, ‘It simply involves remembering and employing a style of thinking and acting that you’ve probably been neglecting since you were a child.’ He believes that the skills that go into making up the entrepreneurial mindset are in all of us; most of us have just forgotten how to use them.
One way to (re)learn these skills is to enroll in a course or program. Many universities with business schools, such as Harvard University or The University of Maryland, have centers devoted to teaching entrepreneurial skills. You could also seek out a mentor or coach to help you (re)acquire an entrepreneurial mindset.
You can also sign up for one of hundreds of online courses available, on sites such as Udemy, Udacity or Coursera. Coursera partners with many schools and universities around the world, to offer courses in a variety of languages. (Udemy alone has 533-course results for a search on their site using the word ‘entrepreneur.’)
Or read. Books such as The Lean Startup or The Startup Way by Eric Ries or Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur by Paul B. Brown.
Check out The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday; $100 Startup by Charles LeBeau; The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz and The Achievement Habit, by Dr. Bernard Roth. If you’re unsure how your own entrepreneurial skills rate, try the Entrepreneurial Strengths Finder by Jim Clifton, which includes an online assessment test.
There are many tools out there these days to help you (re)gain an entrepreneurial mindset and perhaps give you the confidence to launch your own company (or consultancy or startup). Even if you prefer to work for someone else, an entrepreneurial mindset will still be valuable in a rapidly changing business world and the growing gig economy.