An entrepreneur’s goal is to start a new business that will grow and flourish. However, the entrepreneurial mindset can sometimes get left behind when a company finds its footing. Once companies reach a particular size, the status quo (which has, until now, served them well) can get in the way.
Specific protocols and processes once necessary for order suddenly become barriers to expansion, and it’s hard to make a business case for straying from a company’s core competency. However, playing it safe can deter you from exploring professional development opportunities. It can also prevent you from staying ahead of your smaller, more agile competitors.
Rather than limiting the definition of an entrepreneurial mindset to creating and launching your business, apply this way of thinking to an existing organization and breathe new life into the business.
What is an entrepreneurial mindset?
For legacy companies, disruption occurs when they undergo a distinct shift in company culture and process to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. From a cultural standpoint, an entrepreneurial mindset can be defined as:
- Developing an environment that empowers and encourages employees to take risks in their work and views failure as an opportunity to learn and grow
- Becoming acutely attuned to your customers’ wants and needs and embracing the challenge to create innovative solutions
- Understanding and embracing your fears so you can harness them
As far as processes go, think about how entrepreneurs define a problem and find the solution. They don’t dive into untested ideas. Instead, they ask whether customers want that solution. If so, they test and develop a proof of concept before scaling the “winner.”
Did you know? An entrepreneurial mindset can exist alongside a growth mindset, where you believe you and others can improve skills with the right environment and encouragement.
How an entrepreneurial mindset can work in a corporate setting
Established companies can learn from an entrepreneur’s mind. By combining an entrepreneurial mindset with your corporate experience, you can drive true innovation. Here’s how to get started.
1. Go straight to the source.
Legacy companies should interact directly with the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem when possible. By engaging with entrepreneurs, you’ll get a firsthand look at how startups approach problems with new solutions. You can then use those insights to inform your innovation efforts.
You can participate directly in product and service innovations by collaborating with startups. On the other hand, an open innovation program allows you to discuss industry-specific hurdles with peers. Additionally, enrolling in some of these programs might uncover customer pain points you hadn’t thought of yet.
2. Find a healthy level of risk tolerance.
Institutional memory can do a number on your ability to innovate. However, nothing ventured means nothing gained. That’s why startups hit it out of the park when it comes to innovation. They see a new problem and decide to solve it. Being the first mover brings better margins: You can charge a premium for your efforts, but you’ll also need to find a healthy level of risk tolerance. It’s OK to be cautious as long as you learn something along the way.
Determine the risk level you’re willing to take. Then, start with some low-hanging fruit to motivate and encourage your employees to continue working toward lasting innovation. There’s nothing like a win to encourage everyone to soldier on. Disruption, as they say, is an evolution.
3. Engage your entire leadership team.
If you hope to spark disruption, it must start with department-level leadership. All your directors should understand and ascribe to your future initiatives as a leader for this to succeed.
You won’t achieve the desired breadth or depth of innovation if you operate in a silo. There has to be a trust level that goes both ways for the company to find lasting success. More established organizations haven’t always been known for their agility, but that doesn’t mean your company can’t break the mold.
4. Practice being decisive.
Your business’s success hinges on your ability to be decisive, especially about the direction and goals you want for your company and the people you bring on board to help you get there. Taking decisive action means assessing a situation and making an informed decision based on the information available to you.
You can put this mindset into practice by making small decisions throughout your day. Once you get into the groove of taking decisive action in your personal life, it will eventually become second nature when addressing challenges in your business.
5. Face your fears.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to overcome your fears is to face them head-on. Whether you struggle with a fear of rejection, embarrassment, public speaking or failure, the more you condition yourself to be vulnerable and confront your fears, the less power they will have over you.
For example, if you struggle with making speeches, consider signing up for a Toastmasters class or a slot at an open-mic night at a comedy club. By doing so, you’ll become accustomed to speaking in front of strangers, learn how to gauge your delivery and timing, and figure out how to read a room from behind the podium.
Tip: Try taking standup comedy classes to help you increase sales and build your public speaking and conversational skills. You’ll learn how to hone the timing and delivery of your sales pitches and humanize your connection to potential customers and clients.
Downsides of an entrepreneurial mindset in a corporate setting
While disruption can fuel innovation and growth, an entrepreneurial mindset also has some potential downsides.
1. An entrepreneurial mindset can lead to confirmation bias.
If you’ve been in your line of business a while, it’s only natural to consider yourself an expert. Having confidence in your abilities and clearly conveying your ideas are excellent skills. However, they can unintentionally lead to tunnel vision when receiving criticism or remaining open to new ideas.
This “confirmation bias” can cause you to hear what you want and dismiss anything negative regarding your ideas, strategies or beliefs, inhibiting your ability to collaborate and work well with employees, colleagues and partners.
2. A self-serving bias can result from an entrepreneurial mindset.
No one wants to be proven wrong, but taking responsibility for your missteps is key to your professional success. Self-serving bias, or the act of taking credit solely for positive outcomes and blaming outside factors and others for your failures or setbacks, can create unnecessary workplace conflict. Blaming everyone else for the challenges or slip-ups you experience can quickly alienate you from your colleagues and peers and earn yourself a reputation for being difficult to work with.
FYI: Smart entrepreneurs avoid making excuses for their mistakes. Instead, they analyze where they went wrong and create a strategy to correct their misstep.
3. Entrepreneurs can fall prey to a planning fallacy.
When it comes to adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurs often fall prey to believing they can achieve more in a shorter period or on a smaller budget than is actually feasible. Avoid the planning fallacy by paying close attention to your project timeline, scope and strategy. Schedule regular check-ins with your colleagues, employ thoughtful budget planning, and analyze if you need to adjust your strategy or approach to complete your work on time.
4. An entrepreneurial mindset can lead to blind optimism.
Being an optimist is typically a positive attribute. However, operating with blind optimism can be a massive detriment to your success. It’s essential to remain realistic when it comes to your time, energy, timelines and effort. Know when to ask for help or reevaluate your approach rather than pushing on and assuming things will improve if you keep trying.
There’s no shame in asking a colleague or your manager for help, seeking a second opinion from a trusted teammate, or admitting to yourself (and others) that it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
Dan Lauer contributed to the writing and research in this article.