What does it mean to be Entrepreneurial? It is not just about starting a business, or spinning out a company from research. It’s a mindset, or a way of thinking. Entrepreneurs just think and do things differently. You can be entrepreneurial even if you are working for someone else, with the buzzword “intrapreneurial” highlighting the desire of employers to have adaptable, flexible employees who can think for themselves. Being entrepreneurial can mean knowing your industry inside out, and being able to exploit that knowledge to create new opportunities. Being entrepreneurial can mean sharing ideas freely, and celebrating so-called failures as learning and growing experiences. Being entrepreneurial can mean simply thinking outside of the box, and expecting the unexpected. The Garage Group have a great list of other ways someone can be entrepreneurial.
Entrepreneurial thinking can manifest itself in many ways, whether it is the hard core serial entrepreneur who has developed a range of business ideas, or the social entrepreneur using technology to empower women in India, or artists using their work to raise awareness of social injustice or inequality. Entrepreneurial thinking enables people to be flexible, adaptable, and see opportunities.
The University of Nebraska has a great post called “Learn to Think Like an Entrepreneur”, which gives some great examples of how students and researchers can use entrepreneurial thinking in their research:
1. Think ahead – Where do you want to be in 5/10/20 years? Entrepreneurs are good at thinking in the present, but also try and have a vision of the future.
2. Working across disciplines – Think about the broader picture and the impact of your research. Entrepreneurs see opportunities in not-so-obvious places, and are often able to find a way to exploit them.
3. Develop transferrable skills – Think about the skills you have and how they can be applied to different situations. Entrepreneurs often must have a breadth of transferrable skills, being the developer, marketer, salesman and accountant for their idea.
4. Meeting people – Growing a network is important for both entrepreneurs and students or researchers. Meeting people from other walks of life allow you to have a broader perspective and allows you to connect with others who may be able to help you or be helped by you in the future.
5. Mentors – Mentors will help an entrepreneur or student to visualise a goal or pathway, giving advice and guiding the mentee on a path which is beneficial.
6. Be in Charge of Your Own Destiny – Entrepreneurs are generally agile and adaptable, working around issues and finding new ways where necessary. Researchers and students need to have the same flexibility, working towards a goal, but being able to adapt to changing circumstances.
So, being entrepreneurial doesn’t mean you have to start a business. . . it just means being innovative, creative, resourceful and adaptable. This will help in any aspect of a career path, whether you want to work for yourself or someone else, in industry or academia.