It’s Engineers Week! #eWeek2016 In celebration, I’m going to think (and post) this week on the idea of an entrepreneurial mindset. More than entrepreneurship, an entrepreneurial mindset supports innovation and value creation in personal work, team development, all across the range of small to massive organizations and freelanced careers. We all need an entrepreneurial mindset, whether or not we are going to start a business around our ideas.


I first heard the term, entrepreneurial mindset, from my colleague Prof. Chris Kitts. Chris is the lead for our work with KEEN (Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network). The network was founded with resources and insights from The Kern Family Foundation.

The Kerns started their business in 1959, but at the end of their work careers they began to reflect on the attributes they found most important to their customers, community, and company. KEEN is a part of how the Kerns support education, character development, the value of work, and the development of an entrepreneurial mindset (and I thank them for funding the development of my Cultures of Innovation course).

The Kerns offer:

An entrepreneurial mindset consists of three key elements: Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value. Entrepreneurially minded individuals:

  • have a constant curiosity about our changing world and employ a contrarian view of accepted solutions;
  • habitually connect information from many sources to gain insight and manage risk; and
  • create value for others from unexpected opportunities as well as persist through, and learn from, failure.”

Note that this is a broad definition and does not say that you have to go out and start a business. One point I’ve taken from Mr. Kern is how valuable people with an entrepreneurial mindset can be as they work inside a company. (For a later post, I’ll take on how organizations need to lead by letting go gain full value from their entrepreneurially minded employees.)

McGrath & MacMillan

The Kerns are not alone in their support of the entrepreneurial mindset. Professors Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillan, in their book, The Entrepreneurial Mindset, offer a pointed set of characteristics held by what they call “habitual entrepreneurs:”

  • They passionately seek new opportunities
  • They pursue opportunities with enormous discipline
  • They pursue only the very best opportunities
  • They focus on execution--specifically, adaptive execution (I love this point - ties to design thinking)
  • They engage the energies of everyone in their domain

Though I see these as more project oriented than the Kern descriptors, McGrath and MacMillan’s boundaries are also broad and valuable across a range of freelancers, start-up founders, teams, and organizations.

Are You?

We started with this question, “do you have an entrepreneurial mindset?” I hope you do! ...and I’d appreciate hearing examples of how such a mindset has played out in unique settings. What can you share? Be a part of Engineers Week 2016 and use #eWeek2016

See video