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Adopting an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Updated: Mar 3

What is an entrepreneur? Think about it for a second. Which of the following come to mind?

  • Someone who owns a small-business.

  • Someone starting their own business.

  • Someone seeking funding for a high-tech venture.

  • Someone with the inclination to discover, evaluate, and exploit opportunities.

Three of these four are commonly called entrepreneurs, but it’s the fourth option that most accurately describes what it means to be entrepreneurial. The definition of entrepreneurship that I use is my Communication for Entrepreneurs course is “the process of creating value by bringing together a unique combination of resources to exploit an opportunity” (Stevenson & Jarillo-Mossi, 1986). You will note this definition is not specific to companies of a specific size, but it speaks more to a type of activity that takes place within the organization.

Many of my students will start their own companies and many will work for established companies. All of them can benefit from an entrepreneurial mindset – acting and thinking like an entrepreneur. McGrath and MacMillan (2000) identify five characteristics of the entrepreneurial mindset:

  1. They passionately seek new opportunities. 

  2. They pursue opportunities with enormous discipline. 

  3. They pursue only the very best opportunities and avoid exhausting themselves 
and their organizations by chasing after every option. 

  4. They focus on execution—specifically, adaptive execution. 

  5. They engage the energies of everyone in their domain. 

This mindset can be practiced so that it becomes habitual. I recently had the pleasure to listen to Ray Smilor of Texas Christian University speak about creating a classroom for innovation. He shared four ways we can help develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

  • Be willing to be wrong. Pursue ideas even when the probability of succeeding is low.

  • Make connections. Practice generating multiple ideas and finding various ways to achieve goals.

  • Learn from mistakes. This speaks to being persistent and is at the heart of the build-measure-learn loop of the Lean Startup philosophy.

  • Be open to possibilities. Practice saying “Yes, and…”

Bosman, L., & Fernhaber, S. (2018). Teaching the entrepreneurial mindset to engineers. Springer International Publishing.

McGrath, R.G. and I. MacMillan. 2000. The Entrepreneurial Mindset. Harvard Business School Press.

Stevenson, H. H., & Carlos Jarrillo-Mossi, J. (1986). Preserving entrepreneurship as companies grow. Journal of business strategy, 7(1), 10-23.


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