What’s happening with city employees in Albuquerque, New Mexico may help change the way we think about entrepreneurship and the way business owners, founders and managers think about employees.
A little more than a year ago, Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry launched a program to teach 100 city employees how to think like entrepreneurs and learn the entrepreneurial mindset. That mindset is the set of skills and attitudes that entrepreneurs and innovators use to identify opportunities and overcome challenges.
“We enrolled 100 City employees because we need the entrepreneurial mindset now more than ever. It is about creating an environment to succeed that is based in efficiency, critical thinking and collaboration. We think the entrepreneurial mindset is a big part of the equation that leads us towards innovation and success,” Berry said.
The mayor and partners at Central New Mexico Community College have placed bets that exposing city employees to the mindset can transform the way they work, making the city more efficient and boosting the satisfaction of their residents and taxpayers.
The results aren’t in yet. It will take some time for the employees to digest and apply the entrepreneurship skills they’ve learned and even more time for those new ideas and attitudes to filter through their workplaces. So far, though, the anecdotal evidence is strong.
“In the solid waste industry we’re always going to have work, but that doesn’t mean that we take it for granted … ultimately we are a business and we need to provide a service to roughly 250,000 people in the City of Albuquerque. So just to know [from the program] that I can carry myself as a business owner was really powerful stuff,” Robert Vigil, supervisor of Albuquerque’s Solid Waste Management Department told program administrators.
What the city is doing is a smart, forward-looking investment. I ran an international organization that taught the mindset to hundreds of thousands of young people. I’ve seen the power it has to spark creativity and forge an ownership mentality. I’ve also spoken with countless CEOs, policy leaders and pundits around the globe who’ve shared their struggles finding creative, collaborative, ownership-mindset employees. Every one of those CEOs and leaders has told me they wished their employees were more entrepreneurial.
The Albuquerque results will be important to the future of teaching entrepreneurship. Many people, me included, have long believed that entrepreneurship and the underlying mindset can be taught and learned. The research supports this view. So far, though, much of this research has been classroom based and theoretical -- connecting better outcomes such as college attendance to entrepreneurship education.
Albuquerque may be the first major, real world workplace test of teaching adults to think like entrepreneurs. We may see whether those classroom concepts can really translate into better outcomes. Good results will be another major check mark in favor of expanding entrepreneurship training across the board.
Another benefit of good results from their experiment in entrepreneurship education could be expanded mindset training for employees in a variety of different occupations and settings. I have little doubt that if entrepreneurial thinking can improve how a city runs, CEOs of companies big and small will give it a hard look. When they do, more and more of them will see the value of having entrepreneur employees – teammates who are innovative, persistent and seize opportunities.
Finally, the Albuquerque endeavor, if successful, would also reinforce the idea that entrepreneurs aren’t just those who launch Internet startups. Entrepreneurs are people anywhere who understand and use the mindset. They can be in government departments in Albuquerque as easily and as successfully as they are in board rooms in Silicon Valley.
Albuquerque may be an unusual place to watch for the future of what it means to be an entrepreneur and the future of employee training, but it is. And, in a way, it proves a fundamental truth about entrepreneurship: innovation can come from anywhere at any time.