8 Ways to Think Like an Entrepreneur

When it comes to entrepreneurship, it's not what you do -- it's your mindset that matters.

learn more about Shawn Osborne

By Shawn Osborne • Oct 26, 2015

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes, sizes, ages and can be from anywhere. They, as far as I know, do not wear a uniform or carry membership cards for an entrepreneurship club. If you passed one on the street or sat next to one in a restaurant, you'd likely not even know.

So what makes someone an entrepreneur?

We used to think that people became entrepreneurs based on something they did. Most often, we'd identify entrepreneurs as those people who started companies. And while that's still true, the concept of being an entrepreneur has definitely changed.

Related: 5 Key Characteristics Every Entrepreneur Should Have

Now, we tend to see entrepreneurs as people who think in a pretty specific way. If there was an entrepreneur club today, you would be more likely to get your membership card based on how you think about things rather than what you do for a living.

The way entrepreneurs think is called the entrepreneurial mindset. The idea of getting to the root of how entrepreneurs think is relatively new. An entire culture of research and scholarship and study is growing around it.

At my organization, we've been teaching young people how to think like entrepreneurs since the 1980s. But as the research continues and we share the concepts with more and more people, we are learning more and more about what the mindset is, how it works, how to teach it and how it can be applied.

As part of the ongoing study of the entrepreneurial mindset, and based on our experience, we have been able to break it down into eight key parts -- specific ways entrepreneurs think about and approach things. These mindset components are not rigid. They are elastic and subjective. They are also not an all-or-nothing situation where you have to have all eight to be an entrepreneur. Like everyone else, entrepreneurs have different strengths and weaknesses.

Related: Why 'Grit' May Be Everything for Success

Regardless of what you do, however, here are the eight parts of the entrepreneurial mindset -- the way entrepreneurs think and act. How many do you have?

1. Opportunity recognition

Entrepreneurs see and often seek out opportunities. They can learn to see ways to make things better for themselves and others.

2. Comfort with risk

Entrepreneurs learn to weigh and assess risk and become comfortable with the idea they must invest time and resources in unsure enterprises and ideas.

3. Creativity and innovation

Entrepreneurs are creative problem solvers. They apply unconventional tools and approaches to existing challenges.

4. Future orientation

Entrepreneurs think about what's next and take ownership of outcomes. They can be focused on achievement and reaching set goals for their ideas or themselves.

5. Flexibility and adaptability

Entrepreneurs not only learn to change, they expect to. They prepare for and react quickly to obstacles, setbacks and new information.

6. Initiative and self-direction

Entrepreneurs are self-starters and motivated to reach goals. They are more likely to meet a challenge directly rather than seek input or directive.

7. Critical thinking and problem solving

Entrepreneurs are analysts. They can learn to see challenges, opportunities and even products in their component parts. They can make deep assessments accurately.

8. Communication and collaboration

Entrepreneurs are good at sharing. Ideas and input from others spark and drive their progress. They can communicate their ideas clearly and passionately.

How did you do?

Even if you didn't get as many as you had hoped, remember, you can learn these skills. It's also possible to refine and improve these mindset factors you already have.

Remember also, you'll find those who have and use this entrepreneurial mindset anywhere. They are not all starting businesses and launching tech companies. Some are, but entrepreneurs are also engineers, writers and managers or helping lead businesses, non-profits and government institutions.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, it's not what you do but how you think that matters.

Related: 5 Ways Entrepreneurs See Life Differently

Shawn Osborne

President and CEO, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

Shawn Osborne is the president and CEO of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international education nonprofit based in New York City.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Have More Responsibilities at Work, But No Pay Bump? Use This Script to Get the Raise You Deserve.
Black and Asian Founders Face Opposition at All Levels — Here's Why That Has to Change
Business News

Frontier Airlines Just Announced Its All-You-Can-Fly Summer Pass for $399. What's the Catch?

As travel begins to pick up, the airline hopes unlimited travel will jumpstart its business.

Thought Leaders

5 Small Daily Habits Self-Made Millionaires Use to Grow Their Wealth

We've all seen what self-made millionaires look like on TV, but it's a lot more subtle than that. Brian Tracy researched what small daily habits these successful entrepreneurs adopted on their journey from rags to riches.

Business News

Mark Cuban's Grocery Store Hack Will Help You Score Cheaper Produce

The billionaire talked about his early days in Dallas when he was strapped for cash.

Growing a Business

The Success of Your PR Campaign Depends on These 3 Essential Elements

A successful PR campaign requires these three critical ingredients to ensure you're on the right path to success.