In the latter part of my high school years, I had a conversation with my father about a fad that was heavily-influencing my classmates and causing them to make life (and body altering) decisions. That fad was body piercing and tattooing. My father listened silently as I justified my curiosity with the trend and tried to convince him that the visual expression of my individuality, through the modification of my physical attributes, would help me leave my mark on the world…and other less obvious places. My father refusal was expressed in the words: “Some of the most extraordinary people are the most ordinary looking.”
Let’s turn our attention from tattoos and body-piercing for a moment and instead explore how the Entrepreneurial Mindset can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
In a ground-breaking presentation, Gary Schoeniger, Founder of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, acknowledged that while there remain challenges in the way in which entrepreneurship is defined – both from an academic and economic development perspective – entrepreneurship begins with a mindset that exposes opportunity and ignites ambition. The Entrepreneurial Mindset is not formulaic; it is a consequence of the common logic, beliefs and assumptions that drive behaviour and transcend business school paradigms.
Schoeniger defines entrepreneurship, very simply, as opportunity discovery. He goes on to say that the Entrepreneurial Mindset inspires regardless of circumstance and that it is choices rather than circumstances that form the foundation for successful entrepreneurs. A point elaborated upon later.
Schoeniger’s convictions in fostering the Entrepreneurial Mindset are not based only on the growing economic justifications for entrepreneurship – such as that all net job growth results from entrepreneurship or that policy makers are increasingly turning their attention to the long-term benefits of entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneurial Mindset is indispensable in today’s rapidly-changing environment and gives us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves by connecting with the environment through the creation of something useful for others. The Entrepreneurial Mindset encourages us to start where we are, with what we have and who we know. It is rooted in the four processes, illustrated below.
Here are some practical suggestions on how you can kick-start each step in the process.
- Interaction – get yourself out there. Join mailing lists, follow the tweets, blogs and social media posts of entrepreneurial networks; attend events; arrange visits to other entrepreneurs’ businesses
- Observation – open your eyes and take notes. After visiting different projects and businesses you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. It’s all about flattening your learning curve.
- Experimentation – or in the words of Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman – Just do it! Take action. Start where you are, with what you have and who you know.
- Adaptation – tweak it. After the wonderful (and not so wonderful) lessons you would have learnt from others in Step 2 (observation) and from your own experimentation (Step 3), take time to reflect. Keep what works and change what doesn’t. Ask others for input.
Understanding this process and the eight components of Schoeniger’s entrepreneurial curriculum, below, will unlock your Entrepreneurial Mindset.
- Power to choose. This is the most important component as all others flow from it. Realise that it is choices rather than circumstances that determine your success so choose the responses to your circumstances carefully.
- Recognise problems as solutions. Successful entrepreneurs solve other people’s problems
- Action. Test your ideas in the real world
- Entrepreneurship is about self-directed and life-long learning
- Financial literacy. Run your business close to the bone – especially in the early days.
- Build a brand that delivers and is reliable
- Build a success community made up of people who have been on or are on a similar journey as you.
- Persistence. It takes years to become an over-night success.
Unlocking the Entrepreneurial Mindset will move you from ordinary to extraordinary by letting you leave an indelible mark on the world rather than yourself. Unless, of course, you are a tattoo artist with a $1-bn global empire – in which case ink yourself away!