Drive Real Innovation by Re-discovering Your Intrinsic Entrepreneurial Mindset

Corporate experience and your own entrepreneurial streak can create an explosive combination.

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By Angela Kambouris • Sep 9, 2019 Originally published Oct 10, 2018

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Developing an entrepreneurial mindset doesn't require an MBA or millions of dollars. It does, however, demand that you're willing to imagine new ways to solve problems, embrace failure and create extraordinary value.

Most people associate entrepreneurship with the stuff of fairy tales. The most successful among them have become near-archetypes -- the rags-to-riches underdog (Howard Schultz), the unorthodox and unapologetic visionary (Steve Jobs), the adventurer (Richard Branson). Now all are famous, maybe even "heroic" by modern standards. They captured headlines along with our imaginations and accumulated staggering wealth.

Despite their unique imprints, one thing remains true: The entrepreneurial mind is something you can attain, with knowledge learned through experience and exploration.

Those who possess the entrepreneurial spirit are motivated by love of their product or service. They have an innate passion for making a difference in the world. Many don't actually want to strike out alone -- at least, not initially. They want to add value within their organizations, improve their ability to chart new paths or challenge the status quo to become a force for innovation. At some point, though, they experience a shift in mindset. They recognize they can explore and amplify their inherent drives.

Related: How Your Thoughts Can Make or Break You

Entrepreneurial thinking powers industries, transforming companies from within and creating extraordinary value for employees and customers. Much like artists or composers, entrepreneurs see something no one else sees. Then they surround themselves with other talented performers to bring that vision to life.

Promoting an entrepreneurial mindset company-wide can help you gain a competitive edge and create opportunities for growth. It can be a means to improve products, processes and services; to acquire and retain new clients; and to attract and retain quality people in the business.

Here's how to get started.

Live the values every day.

Entrepreneurs are driven by purpose. Within the corporate arena, people often act within the confinements of their roles. When you integrate entrepreneurial thinking into the walls of an organization, you give people a reason to get out of bed. Connecting their hearts and minds to a shared vision gives more context to each role. Help your team members find their inner purpose and imbue meaning in what they do, regardless of their title or seniority within the organization.

Keep it all about the client.

Organizations that obsess over customers are acutely tuned in to their wants and needs. A client-centric approach is about delivering high-quality products or services while creating real relationships to drive repeat business, loyalty and profits. When employees act like entrepreneurs, the center of focus shifts to the clients.

Founder Jeff Bezos embodies Amazon's vision statement: "We seek to become Earth's most customer-centric company." Amazon has fused client centricity in each activity and the decision it takes.

Encourage your people to ask open-ended questions that lead to quality conversations:

  • What does the customer want, need, desire?
  • What are the customer's pain points and frustrations?
  • How can each team member improve interactions with clients to serve them better, faster or with less drama?

These questions tap into the essence of the client experience. The answers paint a valuable picture of what's important and how your product or service adds value. If challenges arise, these exercises also position you to offer real solutions.

Related: Jeff Bezos Reveals His Daily Decision-Making Goal and 30 Other Crazy Things We've Learned About the Amazon Founder

Seek out incubator experiences.

Empowering people to explore new, better ideas and processes can foster forward thinking, bring positive changes and create room innovation. These typically are semi-protected spaces where people can share and debate ideas, then mold them into new forms. These spaces might be an internal bloc, a secret Facebook group, or an incubator experience or roundtable.

Leave the ego at the door.

Ever met a human who hasn't made a mistake? Organizations are renowned for blaming and shaming people when errors go public. Instead, use mistakes as an opportunity for everyone to learn. Promoting entrepreneurial thinking means supporting people to leave their ego to the side. Challenge them to think of themselves as CEOs of their world, instilling a culture of responsibility, ownership and accountability for their results.

Find the sweet spot.

Entrepreneurial organizations have a culture of working hard and playing hard. Leaders place high expectations on their people, adopt a no-room-for-mediocrity attitude and have a high regard for a strong work ethic. Find the sweet spot: Ensuring your company is fun also can be vital to its success.

Take advantage of teachable moments.

Entrepreneurial champions are worth their weight in gold. Instill an attitude of mentoring to communicate that you are here to help people unlock their potential, facilitate coaching moments and close the gap to achieve the results they want. Lead people and coach in real time. You'll inspire your workforce to be part of the collective success.

Embrace a greater social responsibility.

Entrepreneurial thinkers create a space to be more agile, innovative and resilient. They share a commitment to conducting business responsibly and showing respect for people, communities and the environment. Companies with a genuine desire to make a sustainable difference instill these values throughout their organization. For example, Unilever made numerous changes in factories around the world to create more sustainable, environmentally friendly operations. The company implemented a Sustainable Living Plan to increase positive social impact and support the UN Sustainable Developmental Goals.

Related: 5 Reasons Social Responsibility Is a Step in the Right Direction for Small Business

Cultivate a culture of intimacy.

Entrepreneurial organizations deliberately maintain a strong sense of connection with both their people and their customers. Entrepreneurs hunger for personal development -- theirs and others'. This togetherness is an investment in providing all employees with opportunities for real business involvement, including decision-making and innovations. Such companies capitalize on individual strengths and connect individuals inside and outside the organization to work on projects.

Client engagement is more a sense of partnership where regular events, product testing, and feedback provide insight and excitement about products and loyalty to the brand. As Amazon's Bezos puts it: "If you cannot afford to be misunderstood, don't do anything new or innovative."

Become a perpetual learner.

Most of us have forgotten how to tap into our natural, entrepreneurial spirit. Enrolling in a course is one way to reignite our curiosity. Many universities dedicate centers to teaching entrepreneurial skills. If there isn't an actual campus in your area, opt for the virtual version: Udemy, Coursera or Skillshare are a few to consider.

Related: 6 Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset

Discover clues to success in others' stories.

You don't need a one-on-on audience to learn from some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs. If you want to test the road less traveled, Tribe of Mentors tackles a wide range of topics. Tim Ferriss offers his own advice and pulls insights from influential mentors. Gary Vaynerchuk shares his experience and offers strategies, tactics, and inspiration from others in Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence -- and How You Can, Too.

Angela Kambouris

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Evoluccion Consulting Agency

Angela Kambouris built a high-level career as an executive in the field of vulnerability and trauma. A global consultant and founder of Evoluccion Consulting Agency, she writes about how the leader’s mindset drives workplace culture, how to cultivate leaders and set the leadership team for success.

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