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Why developing an entrepreneurial mindset is vital – even if you don’t run a business

Adjunct Professor at the Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) Cyril Jankoff talks about why developing an entrepreneurial mindset is an essential skill for managers and leaders to overcome volatility.

We often consider the word ‘volatility’ in a negative light. While rapid and unpredictable change (which is the meaning of volatility) can send businesses and organisations into a sort of rollercoaster ride, it need not result in change for the worse. If managers and leaders understand their role in helping their teams endure the ride, benefits may await in the end.

My colleague, Daniel Bendel, and I have observed the benefits of having managers with the right mindset to tackle unpredictable change. As we were writing two books, Business War Stories from the Trenches and What Can We Learn from Everyday Successful Australian Entrepreneurs?, we were fortunate to speak to many intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs about the ins and outs of starting, operating and maintaining a business, and hearing their stories convinced us of the merits of entrepreneurial thinking.

Entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial thinking

The entrepreneur seeks to create value by taking above-average risks for a reward that may go beyond economic rewards. The intrapreneur is someone who thinks like an entrepreneur but starts ventures from within larger companies. Then there are some who think like an employee, that is one who is happy to exchange their time and expertise for pay with ambitions perhaps limited to internal promotion.

The entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial mindset values thinking beyond that of the pure employee. This desire to do more than what is expected makes the entrepreneurial mindset well-suited for tackling volatility. We note that the categories of entrepreneur, intrapreneur and employee are generalised for the purposes of this summary but, there are many degrees between one category and the next.

As with many of the essential skills required from managers and leaders, the entrepreneurial mindset does not always come naturally. So, it helps to look at what you as a manager can do to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

Identify and nurture managers with an entrepreneurial mindset

The first thing that business leaders need to do is to accept that they need managers with the right thinking. Once you know which managers in your team are not risk-averse and can be described as corporate entrepreneurs, then you can take steps to support their initiatives, enrich their working environment and nurture their entrepreneurial mindset.

A key issue is that we need to think about improving the employee experience of these managers. If you are fortunate enough to have them, ensure that you retain them as valuable assets to the organisation. These cannot be found on the balance sheet but are often equally, if not more, valuable than many key assets on paper.

Delegate, not abrogate, to your entrepreneurial managers

Once you have identified which managers have the “right stuff” then you can allocate projects for them to run. Set limits and budgets to contain any downside risks. During and/or at the end of the project you can then evaluate them. Rarely do projects run smoothly. They will have their ups and downs, that is there frequently is “volatility”. This will help to prepare your chosen managers to handle volatility outside of the projects delegated to them and will become an asset to you in times of extreme volatility.

Seek to develop your commercial knowledge

On an individual basis, if you want to develop your entrepreneurial thinking, several sources can assist you. The goal is to build up your commercial acumen and achieving this can be done in many ways. Why not try to find a mentor, attending workshops and webinars or even listening to podcasts? Depending on the type of learner you are, the options may differ from those listed above. Select the learning method that suits your abilities, prior qualifications, experience, aspirations and how much time you can invest.

Consider formal education

If you are a busy manager or leader and are interested in a formal qualification you could consider a managerially focused Master of Business Administration (MBA). For instance, the Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) executive delivery MBA, which I run in Melbourne and help teach in Sydney, has been designed to assist time-poor professionals. It is comprised of two parts. The first part is reading the background materials as a self-managed structured online 4-week delivery. Then there is the interactive component, comprising three consecutive days per subject (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) with an experienced practitioner. Not having a prior degree is not a barrier, as all you need is five years’ managerial experience.

Cyril Jankoff Adjunct Professor at UBSS
Cyril Jankoff

In my career, I was advised very early on that if I took continuing professional development, I should try to obtain credit towards a recognised qualification for it. I took this advice seriously, and many years later, I have several university qualifications, which have substantially assisted my career. 

Don’t stop at developing an entrepreneurial mindset

Of course, simply adopting an entrepreneurial (or intrapreneurial) mindset is not the only solution to overcoming volatility. We must bear in mind that management is a social science. When we talk about entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs or managers and leaders, there is often no right, wrong, or single answer to a challenge. It is not the same as a scientific experiment, the hallmarks of which is the predictability of results. In other words, in a science experiment, no matter how many times you repeat that same experiment, you will always get the same answer. When it comes to management normally there is no black and white answer, so we must be willing to embrace risk – after all, isn’t that what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset?

IML ANZ is a higher education partner of UBSS. We are proud to work with higher education institutions across Australia and New Zealand to enhance curriculums, student experience and employability outcomes for future managers and leaders.

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