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Why Be Entrepreneurial

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Entrepreneur and entrepreneurship are of French origin. We enjoy many great French traditions; fashion, cuisine, art and architecture. The word "entrepreneur" is not one of them. Back in 2006 when I became the facilitator of the new Successful Entrepreneur Program at Independence Community College, it took me a long time to learn how to say it, let alone spell it. Even today, after typing it thousands of times, spell-check is always telling me I've misplaced one of the "r's." 

The meaning of entrepreneur and its forms; entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial thinking, have also morphed over the years to a point where many people think about the meanings in many different ways. 

Entrepreneurship Is Not Just About Owning A Business 

The original definitions of entrepreneur and entrepreneurship have always been thought of as related to starting and owning a business. Many times, our society has portrayed entrepreneurs as mavericks who risk all to launch their business ideas. The idea that all entrepreneurs are huge risk-takers is a myth. In a recent year, research has shown us that ninety-eight percent of new businesses that went on to be on the Fortune 500 list were started with less than $10,000. Research has also shown that the kind of thinking used by those entrepreneurs that started a business with less than $10,000 is very useful for all of us whether in business or working for others. Entrepreneurial thinking is even useful for government workers always trying to do the most with shrinking budgets. 

How Entrepreneurs Really Think 

Studies of entrepreneurial thinking, also known as entrepreneurial mindset reveal the ways successful entrepreneurs look at problems and find solutions. They make assumptions about a given perceived problem and their newly derived solutionsThey don't write a 100 page business plans with 5-year projections about how much money they will make solving these problems. They don't borrow huge sums of money to launch these businesses, only to find out their assumptions were wrong about either the perceived problems or the solutions they thought everyone would buy. Instead, they figure out how to conduct a series of small experiments to validate their assumptions. That way, if their assumptions are wrong, they haven't exhausted their resources and can tweak their solutions or sometimes pivot to new solutions. Only after validating their assumptions do they do more business planning and invest more resources into growing businesses. 

Validation Is More Than Market Studies, Focus Groups and Surveys 

These entrepreneurs don't base their validation on market studies or even focus groups listening to what potential customers say. They develop what's called a minimum viable product and see if they can get a small subset of their potential customers to actually purchase and try the solution. This launches a feedback loop of learning and tweaking, always paying attention to what customers say after using the products or services. 

It is this kind of entrepreneurial thinking that includes validating assumptions with a series of small experiments and trials that we should all be using in our professional lives whether we own businesses or work for others. All of our work involves solving problems for others, whether customers, coworkers or bosses. This kind of validation helps us choose what problems to solve and whether or not our solutions are considered valuable by those having the problems. Starting small and learning directly from customers or constituents as we go saves countless sums of money, time and resources. Entrepreneurial thinking is the most efficient way to accomplish our work. 

We Should All Be Entrepreneurial Thinkers 

Think for a moment about a society where all members work to solve problems for others using this kind of efficient; i.e. lean, type of entrepreneurial thinking. All segments of our society, business, and government, academic and not-for-profit, would be more effective and efficient with scarce resources of time, money and energy. That's why so many of us around the world, working in "entrepreneurship" are saying that this type of thinking benefits everyone. 

 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks.  


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