How Great Firms Prosper Through Entrepreneurial Thinking

Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Why are some businesses more vulnerable to disruptive change than others?

Should big companies engage in entrepreneurship?

How do you stay ahead of the competition?

In Achieving Longevity: How Great Firms Prosper Through Entrepreneurial Thinking, Jim Dewald provides advice on how to create a culture of entrepreneurial thinking. He offers a method to combine the strength of a strong, established business with the innovation of a startup.

Jim is the Dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, a former CEO and entrepreneur.

 

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” –Winston Churchill

 

Prepare Yourself for Real Disruptive Change

What makes businesses vulnerable to disruptive change?

There are 2 main messages in my book.

First, that while we think the world is changing rapidly, in fact, we continue to rely on a platform that arose from the invention of 3 general purpose technologies in the 1870’s: the internal combustion engine, the light bulb, and the telephone. Even with the computer and the Internet, we have spent decades boxing in this amazing new technology to fit our paradigm need for a faster, smaller, cheaper phone. So, while we think we are in the midst of rapid change, the western world is in fact obsessed with ensuring we stick with the old world and reward refinements of tired mature ways of doing things. When real change comes, will business leaders be prepared? I don’t think so.Dewald_AchievingLongevity

One of the reasons why we won’t respond well when real change comes is that while ideas are abundant, small start-up ventures lack the resources – people, money, physical assets — to launch these ideas. They also lack the credibility, networks, access to customers, suppliers, government officials, etc. This limits their ability to move these ideas forward, no matter how great they may be. At the same time, existing companies are flush with people, money, networks, customers, and, most important, credibility and brand value. But what they lack is an entrepreneurial mindset. To move forward, companies need to resist the rhetoric of finding and sticking to a narrow form of sustainable competitive advantage, and instead adopt a model of strategic entrepreneurship that promotes transformational growth and longevity.

The fundamental impact of disruptive change is that our organizations are not built to manage change very well. Through principles such as sustainable competitive advantage, we tend to use fixed mindsets that build a sort of impenetrable armor around the firm’s processes and procedures, instead of being flexible and adaptable. When disruptive technologies or business models present an alternative, firms resist. Indeed, even customers often resist, as we remain stuck in our paradigms formed as noted above. However, in time, customers adapt because they do not have the level of sunk investment in the old ways that companies often do. Time and again, rigid non-entrepreneurial firms fall by the wayside.

There are many very extreme examples of this phenomenon. Think of Kodak, which is a firm that actually pioneered digital photography, but in the end was unable to adapt to this powerful disruptive technology.

 

“Progress is a nice word we like to use. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.” –Robert Kennedy

 

Embrace a Spirit of Entrepreneurship

How can large organizations embrace a spirit of entrepreneurship?

I emphasize the importance of adopting three points:

  1. Recognize that opportunities are developed at all levels of the organization.
  2. Build a culture that embraces and supports entrepreneurship.
  3. Consciously develop support for entrepreneurial initiatives through effectual processes or bricolage.

The key is leadership, not only in words, but in action. It is imperative that the CEO endorse an entrepreneurial culture by example – championing new ideas. In fact, a failure or two is good because it demonstrates that even the CEO recognizes that not every entrepreneurial idea is destined for success, and it is important to manage your investment and ensure that no one new venture will take down the ship.

 

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” –Peter Drucker

 

The Key Elements of a Good Corporate Culture

What are the elements of a good corporate culture?

There are many theories on this question, and I included quite a few in my book. In the end, the key elements are:

  1. Provide open opportunities for opportunity development – these include group time (because we know that mixing people with diverse expertise and background can lead to innovative solutions), plus unstructured open thinking time (such as 3M’s famous “tinkering” time).
  2. Adopt a learning culture – growth mindsets are essential, pursuing what could be as opposed to why this won’t work.
  3. Accept failure, and the importance of learning from failure.
  4. Adopt bricolage (known outcomes, with unknown ways of getting there), or effectuation (building on invention, experiment, and science) as frameworks for pursuing each entrepreneurial initiative (purposefully).

 

“The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition.” –Peter Senge

 

Encourage Creativity at all Levels

How do leaders encourage creativity at all levels of the organization?

The first thing I would say is that leaders must recognize that organizations need time to change. This is not an overnight process and will require considerable and repetitive actions and wins to change. And failure is a key component – an organization can move far closer to being creative and adopting entrepreneurial thinking by showing that a person with a great idea that failed in implementation is celebrated as thinking outside the box, rather than penalized for failing.

Researchers have studied the importance of story-telling in organizations, and how a lasting culture can be built around well-known, maybe even legendary, stories that come from the history of the organization. The dimensions of story-telling I describe in my book include equality (versus inequality), security (versus insecurity), and control (versus lack of control). Through story-telling of actual events that happened in the organization’s history, employees are able to gauge whether the organization will endorse or shun creativity at all levels.

 

“Successful innovators are..not risk-focused; they are opportunity focused.” –Peter Drucker

 

Middle management is often ignored in the leadership literature. What role do they have in this type of change management?

6 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Evan Carmichael

Leadership Lessons from Entrepreneurs

Evan Carmichael is passionate about helping entrepreneurs. He built and sold a biotech software company at 19. He raised millions as a venture capitalist at 22. And then, he started EvanCarmichael.com as a website to help entrepreneurs. He is, by his own admission, “obsessed” with this passion.

His YouTube channel has millions of views and is the leading channel for entrepreneurs. You may have seen during one of his numerous media interviews or his many keynote speeches.

Recently, I caught up with Evan in Madrid, Spain. Having followed his career online, I wanted to learn more about the entrepreneurial mindset.

Even if we don’t own a business, what can we all learn from entrepreneurs? Here are a few lessons from Evan that inspired me. Since I am all about encouragement and empowerment, I wanted to share some of his most inspiring words.

 

6 Lessons from Entrepreneurs

All of us should:

  1. Embrace the entrepreneurial mindset.

This is a mindset of dissatisfaction with the status quo, of solutions, of challenge, and of driving to a more sustainable, successful place.

 

“Entrepreneurs have a dissatisfaction of the world around us.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Entrepreneurs are the crazy ones who see a better future.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Entrepreneurs are the solution providers who want to make the world a better place.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Most of our global problems could be solved by entrepreneurs.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Adopt a mindset of empowerment.

We should aim for a feeling of empowerment. It’s not about a title or a position. It’s about how we think. Finding a way to make a difference and to drive change is key to success.

 

“You don’t need permission to have an impact.” –Evan Carmichael

 

“Leaders of organizations empower teams to take risks.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Assess and take appropriate risks.

Some entrepreneurs bet everything, but you can be pragmatic. You can take measured bets. Evan’s take on risk was eye opening. He thinks it’s “crazy risky” to assume you will have your job for 25 years and that your company will still be around. “Why not bet on you?” is a challenge we should all learn from.

 

“Betting on yourself is one of the best bets you can make.” –Evan Carmichael

 

  1. Embrace failure.

Failure is a subject I love to study because it is a component of all success. Evan adopts failure as part of the process, as something to embrace and encourage.

 

“Failure is feedback.” –Evan Carmichael

Lessons from SEAL, the Toughest Man on the Planet

Break the Norm for Wild Success

 

Ever feel like you want to take your physical fitness plan up a notch?

Maybe give it your all for 51 Days with former Mr. Universe Rich Gaspari?

Or maybe hire a Navy SEAL to move in with your family for 31 days?

 

“Every day do something that makes you uncomfortable.” -SEAL

 

Jesse Itzler doesn’t do conventional. He doesn’t follow the social norms most of us do. He is a bold, risk taking entrepreneur who seemingly tries anything. He once pretended to be a major hip-hop artist to get a meeting with a studio executive and ended up with a recording deal.

But hire one of the toughest men on the planet to get you into the best shape of your life? Jesse did just that. I recently asked the wildly successful and completely unorthodox Jesse Itzler to share some of his experiences. His new book Living with a Seal: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet, is a hilarious account of his physical fitness journey. (Warning: the book contains language that may be offensive to some readers.)

 

“It doesn’t have to be fun It has to be effective.” -SEAL

 

Get Your Foot in the Door and Figure it Out Later

 

Living With a SealI’m not quite sure how to describe you, but you’ve had crazy success from music to business. You cofounded Marquis Jet, invested in ZICO, and your wife invented SPANX. That seems like you would be someone who would make wise decisions. And then I read this hilarious book and wonder about that assumption. For those who want to emulate your success, how do you describe your decision-making process?

We are totally on the same page because I really don’t know how to describe myself either. I have always lived my life out of the box, and it has brought me great rewards. For the most part, my decision making has been based on my gut mixed with a philosophy of let me get my foot in the door first . . . and then figure the rest out later.

 

“If you want to be pushed to your limits, you have to train to your limits.” -SEAL

 

Jesse, you see a crazy in-shape SEAL and decide he should move in with you and your family. You don’t know him; you didn’t do a background check; you agree to do whatever he says. ARE YOU INSANE? Why did you do this?

I met SEAL at a 24 hour ultra marathon. I ran the race as part of a relay team, and SEAL ran the entire 24 hour race . . . alone. He was his own team. He had a determination and focus that I had never witnessed before in my life. I decided on the spot that I could learn a lot from that man.

 

“The only easy day was yesterday.” -SEAL

 

Say No to Non-Essentials

What was most surprising about those 31 days?

The Surprising Potential of Entrepreneurship

The Potential of Entrepreneurship

When you hear the word “entrepreneur,” what do you think of? Many may think wealth creation, risk taking, or start ups.

What if it also meant social change? What if it was a way to close the wealth gap? What if we looked at it in a completely different way?

To say Steve Mariotti believes in entrepreneurship is more than an understatement. He is the founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a global nonprofit organization that has educated more than half a million students. He passionately believes in entrepreneurship as a transformational experience that can be used in schools, prisons, villages, and inner cities. His new book, An Entrepreneur’s Manifesto takes a completely different view of the role of entrepreneurship.

 

A Life-Changing Jog

You were mugged by a group of teenagers and it changed you. Not many people would have an event like that and decide to serve low-income teens for life. Would you share this story and how it impacted you? 

Cover ImageI was mugged in 1981 by five teenagers while I was jogging one afternoon along the East River on New York City’s Lower East Side. I only had $10 in my jogging shorts and gave that to them, but they continued to threaten and humiliate me. The mugging caught me emotionally off guard, and I had flashbacks and anxiety afterward. Frankly, I became afraid of tough-looking kids. And there are a lot of tough-looking kids in New York City!

To overcome that fear, I decided to face it head-on by becoming a New York City public school teacher. My first assignment was at Boys and Girls High in Bedford Stuyvesant, which was full of tough-looking kids. Within the first day, though, I wasn’t afraid anymore. They were just kids!

The mugging also got me interested in the huge risk my muggers were taking by assaulting people for small amounts of money. Had they been able to sell me something or ask me to invest in a business deal, they could have gotten a lot more money, and it would have been a win/win situation for everyone.

I began sneaking business lessons into my classes, and my students were riveted by them. They were eager to understand how business works, and that in turn motivated them to learn math, reading and writing. In 1987, I founded the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to bring entrepreneurship education to low-income youth around the world. To date there are more than 600,000 graduates of NFTE programs from Chicago to China.

“Entrepreneurship education really could change the world.” -Steve Mariotti

 

Anyone Can Learn Business