An Entrepreneurial Mindset: Nature or nurture?
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Entrepreneurial mindset: is it an inborn trait, or can it be learned? The nature/nurture debate impinges on how we conceive and operate industrial firms, commercial enterprises and complex organisations.
Typically, we see positive attributes at the firm, unit or departmental level as premised in the capabilities and features of individuals. So firms are adaptable, teams are flexible, units are responsive because of the people working within them.
What leaders want to know
- “Are our people creative enough?”
- “How well do they cope with uncertainty?”
- “Are they enterprising? Will they take “good risks” to drive our growth?”
Leaders who think people are capable of change invest in their people and in the development of their organisations. Leaders who don’t believe people can develop, divest.I think it's time to challenge leaders on the question of nature versus nurture. Click To Tweet
The example of creativity as a learned aptitudeMore than 60 years ago, advertising executive Alex Osborn asked the question: why does my creative team sometimes fail? By exploring the conditions of failure versus success, he identified some key differences in how people were working that are now widely accepted as critical in deliberate group creativity. These include the principles:
- Distinguish generative thought from analysis and evaluation, and give each its proper time.
- Defer judgement to promote divergent thinking.
Nurturing entrepreneurismSarasvathy and Venkataraman (2011) advance the notion that the entrepreneurial method is analogous to the scientific method. In other words, it is “a generalized method… a form of reasoning and logic” on a par with arithmetic, reading, writing, basic scientific reasoning and “at least as important as civic engagement, civil discourse and the critical development of moral and ethical judgment” (120). Crucial to their argument is the conviction that, like the scientific method, the entrepreneurial method can be taught. To accept this, our thinking must shift from who entrepreneurs are, to what entrepreneurs do. We must come to understand the mechanisms by which they operate in and on the world, to (as Eric Ries puts it) create new value under conditions of extreme uncertainty. As we understand those mechanisms, we can teach them. By teaching the methods of entrepreneurism, we make it possible for more and more people to contribute to systems that create value under conditions of uncertainty.
Entrepreneurial mindsetThe Kern Family Foundation in the USA defines the entrepreneurial mindset as the “know-why” that should accompany the technical “know-how” that engineering graduates bring to the world of work. According to the foundation: “Entrepreneurially minded individuals:
- have a constant curiosity about our changing world and employ a contrarian view of accepted solutions;
- habitually connect information from many sources to gain insight and manage risk;
- create value for others from unexpected opportunities as well as persist through, and learn from, failure.