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.
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.
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.