The classic, and somewhat dry, definition of an entrepreneur is someone who applies resources to greater efficiency or effect. They are able to go farther toward a goal with the same amount of resources or envision and realize entirely new goals, applying existing resources for greater impact.
This is something anyone can learn to do. Peter Drucker, in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said:
[E]veryone who can face up to decision making can learn to be an entrepreneur and to behave entrepreneurially. Entrepreneurship, then, is a behavior rather than personality trait. And its foundation lies in concept and theory rather than in intuition.
Anyone can learn the concepts behind how to use resources more efficiently or to produce greater value. Have you ever applied an idea that knocked 10% off the costs of delivering a particular program? Launched a new teleconference series serving an emerging need among your constituents?
Guess what: you have engaged in entrepreneurship.
It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been entrepreneurial at least a few times in their career. The key differentiator: the most successful people do it with intent and as a matter of course. That’s the difference between an orgpreneur and someone who is happy to just punch a virtual clock.
Many organizations have done fine for decades with very few true entrepreneurs within their walls. Why does this matter so much now? Here are three reasons:
- Our business and social environment is changing ever more rapidly. If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that change is an accelerating constant. Yesterday’s ‘old faithful’ revenue stream may be tomorrow’s empty hole in the ground. Entrepreneurship, the practice of reapplying resources for new value or greater efficiency, is critical to survival.
- The technology to enable and empower innovation and entrepreneurship is rapidly decreasing in price while increasing in power. You can literally do more with less investment. There are highly sophisticated database-driven tools for marketing and relationship management that are available for as little as $50 a month or entire systems you can use for free because they are open source. It’s a new world of possibility regardless of how many zeros are in your budget.
- Entrepreneurial behavior is fun and attracts high performers. Acting as an entrepreneur is wicked fun for the people who are the most likely to achieve great things for your organization. It is a virtuous circle that can transform the level at which you serve your mission if you nurture and enable that behavior.
If you want your career to have a rapid trajectory, you must behave as an entrepreneur. If you want your organization to remain healthy and vibrant while powerfully serving your mission, then you must teach, encourage and reward entrepreneurial behavior among your staff.