3 traits of an entrepreneurial mindset

Entrepreneurship sparks innovation, drives employment, fuels economies, and offers solutions to a range of environmental and societal challenges. But before those sparks and drivers ignite, an entrepreneurial mindset must be in place as a catalyst.

An entrepreneurial mindset helps leaders create value by “recognizing and acting on opportunities, making decisions with limited information, and remaining adaptable and resilient in conditions that are uncertain and complex,” said Rowena Barrett, pro vice-chancellor for entrepreneurship at the Queensland University of Technology.

In a webinar presented by MIT Sloan and the QUT Business School, Barrett andmanaging director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, shared three traits that define an entrepreneurial mindset, no matter the environment.

“Entrepreneurship is much, much bigger than just startups,” Aulet said. “Entrepreneurs need to exist throughout our society not just in venture-backed startups. They need to exist in government, they need to exist in big corporations, they need to exist in non-profits, [and] they need to exist in academic institutions. We need entrepreneurs everywhere.”

Solutions-oriented

An entrepreneurial mindset is resilient, resourceful, and solutions-oriented — even when the conditions say otherwise. People with these mindsets are lifelong knowledge-seekers who are curious and creative, and they are critical thinkers, Barrett said.

“They’re self-directed, action-oriented, highly engaged,” Barrett said. “They have optimistic interpretations of adverse events” and see problems as potential opportunities.

“They’re about looking to others, and the value you can create for others by solving problems for others, and they surround themselves with an intentional community of positive influence and critical guidance,” Barrett said.

Entrepreneurial mindsets understand that pursuing and following through on something can lead to unforeseen opportunities.

Adaptable

An entrepreneurial mindset embraces change, Aulet said, although that’s not always taught in management school.

“That doesn’t mean we need entrepreneurs and no management,” Aulet said. “We need ambidextrous leaders. We need managers who are entrepreneurial and can shift to be managers when needed, and be entrepreneurs [when need be].”

When change happens, an entrepreneurial mindset keeps an eye on the mission, he said.

Anti-fragile

Despite the prefix, anti-fragile is a positive condition and quality of an entrepreneurial mindset, Aulet said.

Anti-fragility has four parts:

  1. Heart — The confidence to say when change occurs that it’s not something to survive, but rather “this is what we were built for,” Aulet said.
  2. Head — The understanding that when change happens, it’s time to act and have a plan of what you’re going to do.
  3. Hand — “It’s not enough to know what to do when we go into battle,” Aulet said. “We have to be able to do it.” It’s converting the head’s knowledge into the ability to get things done.
  4. Home — Building a community that can help you get resources, particularly those beyond your control. Know what to do, have the ability to do it, Aulet said, “then you have to be able to marshal the resources very quickly to do it.”

Anti-fragility and entrepreneurial mindsets must be built in at all levels of an organization, Aulet said.

“This is a mindset, skillset and way of operating that’s going to be needed universally for the challenges we have, not just in the startups across the world,” he said. “If we’re going to address climate change, if we’re going to address health care, if we’re going to address education, we can’t just have startups doing that. We have to have large organizations that have infrastructure, balance sheets, other assets and global presence to be able to address these major challenges.”

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