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?

7 Ways to Build Self-Confidence


Stand Out with Self-Confidence

Dr. Ivan Joseph is the Athletic Director and head soccer coach at Ryerson University. When parents approach him, they often share attributes about their child to impress him. Dr. Joseph is looking for a specific skill above all others. That skill is self-confidence. Most of us think this is a trait, something you’re born with. This coach believes it is a skill and can be developed.


“No one will believe in you, unless you do.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph


7 Ways to Build Self-Confidence

Self-confidence can be built when you consistently:

  1. Do not accept failure.
  2. Practice. Practice.
  3. Do not accept no.
  4. Master your self-talk.
  5. Remove people who tear you down.
  6. Write a self-confidence letter to yourself about your accomplishments.
  7. Repeat positive affirmations throughout the day.

He notes that self-confident people interpret feedback the way they want to because, “No one will believe in you unless you do.”

So many of us think that, when we hit a certain age, we can ignore the skill of self-confidence. What I have seen is that it’s a vitally important skill that can be developed at any stage of your career. No one wants arrogance, but we are all attracted to confidence.


“Get away from the people who tear you down.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph


Are you feeling unworthy? Is your internal voice speaking fear and doubt? Are voices from the past telling you that you can’t do it?

Then try Dr. Joseph’s steps above and increase your self-confidence this week.

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“Put yourself in a situation where you say, I’ve done this a thousand times.” –Dr. Ivan Joseph


“Always act like you’re wearing an invisible crown.” –Unknown


“The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.” –Blake Lively


“What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?” –Eleanor Roosevelt


“If you do not believe you can do it then you have no chance at all.” –Arsene Wenger


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 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

Turning Failure Into Success

Use Failure to Your Advantage


“Failure is not meant to be final and fatal.” –Jon Gordon


Success. Most of us seek it. Many of us study it. All of us want it.

The definition may vary from expert to expert, but our culture is obsessed with it.


“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” –Truman Capote


Rarely, if ever, is success possible without failure. It’s part of the process. A failed play does not determine the game’s ending score.

No matter the definition, most of the people I have met who are successful in any field have failed. Usually many times. Some may fail publicly. Some may fail magnificently. Still others mask their failures or let them go unnoticed on the way to a goal. Many keep at it until what was a failure ends up a success, making the fail inconsequential.


“Failure is temporary, but defeat is permanent.” -Tom Panaggio


Embracing failure is not easy for most of us, but when we fail, it’s comforting to know that others have overcome much worse before us.

Here’s an infographic on failure that shares some famous fails:


“The greatest failure of all is never failing at all.” –Skip Prichard





How an Interim CEO Saves a Company in 9 Steps

This is a guest post by Richard Lindenmuth. Richard has been an Interim CEO in a number of industries. He has over 30 years general management experience in operations and is noted for his comprehensive execution skills. Lindenmuth is Chairman of the Association of Interim Executives. He is the author of The Outside the Box Executive.

I’ve led major corporate transformations and turnarounds for decades — taking ITT and 12,000 employees through deregulation into record profits; overhauling Styrotek, a California agricultural packaging company, in 3 months during a drought. That’s the job of an Interim CEO: to parachute in, rebuild a jumpy staff’s trust and engagement, and manage profound change. It takes a unique skill set, but as I wrote in my new book, The Outside the Box Executive, extreme leadership is really leadership, just the condensed version: there are lessons for everyone.


“Leading by proxy is not leading.” Richard Lindenmuth


Here are my 9 steps for saving a struggling company:


9 Steps for Saving a Struggling Company


1. Hit the ground leading.

Don’t ask permission to start making decisions and forming strategies: do it. The Board brought you in to do a job. And don’t dispatch a group of VPs to speak for you. Leading by proxy is not leading, particularly in today’s business culture, where transparency matters (for good reason).

2. Get out of your office.

To learn about a company’s daily operations, its staff (good and bad), and its problems and challenges, you have to get out there. Don’t hide behind your desk. Walk the halls and let everyone see you.

3. Talk less, listen more.

I recommend active listening, in which you repeat back what someone tells you, and continue that cycle until you reach common ground. It forges mutual respect, paving the way for the honest opinions and information you need for your own due diligence. While an Interim CEO draws from outside experience to set direction and strategy, listening creates the necessary knowledge base.

4. Do your own homework.

No CEO is an island.You’ll need a team of the best and brightest to rely on, but forge your own impressions and make your own judgment calls. That way, when someone’s not being entirely above board, you know it. That’s how I stopped a damaging game of politics at one firm: I knew the difference between reality and rumor.


“A floundering company is a dangerous behemoth.” Richard Lindenmuth