We have all heard about entrepreneurship, even if it is hard to say and even harder to spell, the concept itself is understood. Many of us don’t identify with it because of what it has traditionally meant – “someone who makes money by starting their own business, especially when this involves seeing a new opportunity and taking risks”. Not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur and they don’t feel comfortable with taking on that level of financial risk. Many more people are interested in seeking new opportunities and making an impact that way. This is the other part of the entrepreneurial equation – the entrepreneurial mindset and skills.
The deconstruct the definition of entrepreneurship into mindset and skills versus company building there is a lot that you can do with this. The mindset and skills of entrepreneurship are lifewide skills. These are skills that you can use in all different areas of your life. One of those places is in your job. Your workplace, as strange as it may sound, will benefit from employees upskilling with more entrepreneurial skills. This combination of paid work (being an employee) and entrepreneurial mindset and skills has come to be known as intrapreneurship.
There are two ways to understand employee intrapreneurship one is about identifying opportunities for the business while taking ownership and helping to build pathways for the projects internally while the other is more deeply rooted in the traditional concept of entrepreneurship – helping the company build concepts/products into other businesses.
What is an Intrapreneur?
HubSpot.com defines an intrapreneur as someone who “…works to create new business opportunities or products at their company and find paths for innovation. The main goal of an intrapreneur is to drive innovation within their company.”
This is more firmly planted in the first way of understanding intrapreneurship. It is a mindset shift and it is a form of empowerment that can propel the organisation to take on new directions and challenges if they are open to fostering it. While the second way of understanding intrapreneurship – building companies around products/services – requires a much more developed infrastructure and company culture than most places have available.
Entrepreneurial mindset and skills, whether utilised in their own business or their workplace, are important for everyone. When an organisation invests in developing the entrepreneurial mindset in their employees, they are investing in such skills as
- being proactive
- tolerance to failure, and many more important skills.
These are all necessary for innovation and creative problem-solving whether it is how to utilise a new technology that your organisation has been developing, figure out how to bring many diverse people along in the process, or how to solve complex problems in your own life.
Having employees that feel empowered enough to solve problems through creativity and to understand how the outcome is important to the organisation will increase work satisfaction and allow a more innovative way of doing things.
9 Entrepreneurial Mindset Skills
These 9 entrepreneurial skills can be learned and nurtured people. These are learnable skills. They just need to practiced. Here is what each skill brings to the individual and the organisation.
Ability to Innovate
The ability to innovate means that individuals can spot opportunities and the willingness to try solving problems that they see. It also includes taking ownership and directing opportunities to address needs that have not yet been met.
Creativity is not only about creating paintings or being able to do something with their hands. When talking to talented coders, they speak about how coding is creative. This is because creativity is a much wider, more pervasive skill, than we give it credit. Creativity is something that is anything that uses the imagination or original ideas to create something new and valuable. Both tangible and intangible things. We are all creative in our own way. When one uses an item for something that it wasn’t intended for, then this is displaying creativity.
Planning ahead, getting started even before being ready, and even to stop procrastinating because something isn’t perfect yet. When something is proactively created using simple versions of things, there is time to test and iterate it.
Being good at teamwork is a common claim from people in their CVs/resumes but it isn’t always reality. And yet it is another skill that can be practiced as long as it is understood what it consists of. Teamwork consists of skills such as:
- accepting diversity (and people’s differences)
- emotional intelligence (such as empathy, ability to express yourself, ability to solve conflicts)
- active listening
- ability to play different roles in a team
- and being open to collaborate and cooperate with new people
There is a lot of weight with the word failure. Nobody likes to think that they have failed at something. Often confusing failing with being a failure. But failing is not inherently bad. It only means that something that was tried did not work. It is illogical to think that everything that is tried will work out the first time. The best way to get more comfortable with not succeeding is to reframe the concept as learning. Because that is what it is. No matter if we are trying to paint for the first time or to launch a new product, time is needed to learn the nuances of what will happen and what should happen.
The flip side of tolerating failure is the ability to tolerate risk. Increasing risk tolerance is about going beyond any comfort zone and doing things that are out of a regular routine. Absolutely not about engaging in risky behavior that endanger people, it is about pushing the limits of a comfort zone so that may include things such as speaking up in a meeting when there is something to say, willingness to initiate contact with an unknown person if there is a good reason, trying something new to expand enjoyment or work skills. All of these things can feel ’risky’ when in the big picture, they are not. It is about building confidence and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Plan and Reach Objectives
In order to drive projects forward and to follow up on their performance, knowing how to plan and reach objectives is vital. Being able to track goals and know when to have milestones and how to assess their success is how to move forward in a controlled way. This works for both personal and professional lives.
Love the problem, not the solution is the mantra of every great problem solver. Any one problem can have a myriad of solutions. There isn’t just one way to solve each problem. This foundational realisation is paramount to incorporating the entrepreneurial mindset and becoming an intrapreneur. When someone goes into a problem-solving session with a ready-made solution, they have no idea what they are solving. Often times, problems can present themselves one way but in reality, the very core of the problem is something else. In other words, treating the symptom rather than the disease. Take some time, refrain from judgement, and explore the problem thoroughly.
Networking a good complementary skill to team work. But it also encompasses many of these other skills like tolerating risk and proactiveness. Networking is about connecting with new people around individual and shared interests as well as work objectives and knowledge. Networking can be challenging for many people. When thinking about networking, it is helpful to remember that it is about creating value for others. With this in mind, it is about offering help even more than asking for it.
Promoting and Developing Intrapreneurship in Your Organisation
For organisations to benefit from their employees’ intrapreneurship skills, employers need to first be willing to offer training and opportunities to practice these above skills. Fostering the development of these skills and competences require a structure and organisational culture that values these skills and allows people to be open to new possibilities. Making sure that ‘failure’ is not forbidden and calculated risk-taking is supported.
It requires the organisation to also practice many of these skills themselves. Tolerating risk for the organisation is important as changing the way you work is inherently risky (especially psychologically). Giving opportunities for networking between teams and potential silos to support the potential creation of new opportunities.
Being problem-centred rather than insisting on solutions first will help the organisation to solve problems with real impact.
The organisation itself needs to be proactive in offering upskilling and opportunities for employees to practice and share these skills. Recognise and support employees using and practicing their ability to innovate, and understand the role of creativity in how individuals and teams develop their work. This will support people becoming more engaged in the work that they do.
By illustrating each of these skills individually, it allows you to develop your own skillset to become more entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial. By looking up each of these skills online, you can find exercises and activities that will help you understand how to exactly practice each of these.
Developing capacity at Metropolia
Developing this capacity for the staff to access has been a topic of discussion within the Research, Development, and Innovation team at Metropolia (RDI in English or TKI in Finnish) along with other necessary skills. Starting in February 2024, there will be a series of Lunch and Learn events sponsored by Turbiini, Metropolia’s business incubator. There is also a goal to create an Innovator’s Lab here at Metropolia that will act as a place where the institution’s staff can learn different innovation and innovation-supporting methods. These are things like facilitation fundamentals, service design, prototyping, and so on. These classes will be created also in conjunction with the U!reka Shift project in Work Package 5 & 6 looking at staff development, training, and entrepreneurship.
Pamela Spokes works as a Service Designer in Metropolia’s RDI team. Originally from Canada, Pamela has years of experience in university admin focusing on international recruitment, marketing, and the international student/staff experience. With a Bachelor’s from Canada, a Master’s degree from Sweden, an MBA in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea, and her AmO from Haaga-Helia, she is interested in purposefully designed experiences that are centred around the user. Don’t be surprised if she knocks on your door to talk about learning co-creation methods through intensive learning experiences.
Please contact Pamela Spokes () if you are interested in hearing more about the developments taking place in regards to the Innovator’s Lab or the Lunch and Learn series.