Entrepreneurs & Startups - Introduction

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This introduction outlines the fundamental concepts of EdgeMakers approach to Entrepreneurship. Within the framework of innovative thinking, entrepreneurship is the realization of ideas as they are launched into the world. 

 

(This resource can be used to provide educators with background information before introducing these concepts with students.

It can also be used as a background reading for older students before engaging in analysis or classroom discussion. )

Type: Introduction Duration: 0 minutes Grade Levels: Staff

Introduction:
EdgeMakers Entrepreneurs & Startups
 
Without the individual who makes things happen, there can be no innovative result. So the entrepreneur is central to the EdgeMaking process. 

 The process of entrepreneurship—what entrepreneurs do—can be difficult to define. The word “entrepreneur” is derived from a French root meaning “to undertake.” Entrepreneurship has also variously been defined as “adventurism,” “adrenaline addiction,” “risk–taking” and “thrill–seeking.” While colorful, such definitions have limited value.
It may be more useful to understand the entrepreneur in terms of their role—what they actually do—and map it to the capacities being cultivated through the EdgeMaking curriculum.
 
Our foundational EdgeMaking course on Creativity and Innovation is closely related to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs use their creativity and the creativity of others to develop a new vision of what could be; in short, they are intimately familiar with the “Plant, Grow, Harvest” cycle of EdgeMaking. If innovation is creativity applied to a purpose to realize value, then the entrepreneur is the vehicle by which the innovation process takes place.

It should be noted that the entrepreneur’s responsibilities span both creative and implementation tasks. However, some entrepreneurs build around a radical and disruptive idea–think biotechnology or social media. Others are happy to run with an idea that may not be new at all or only incrementally creative, like the successful entrepreneur who owns twenty fast food franchises. So entrepreneurship occurs on a spectrum of creativity from existing ideas all the way over to disruptive new ideas. But it is important to remember that both innovation and entrepreneurship cover the entire EdgeMaking spectrum of “Plant, Grow, Harvest.” What is unique and core to the concept of entrepreneurship is its focus on realizing value from ideas in what we call the “harvest” phase.

We have previously connected the ability to see things differently to the creative process. It is basic to the entrepreneurial role in terms of the ability to recognize and realize the value in opportunities. What is an opportunity? It is nothing less than a chance to realize something specific about a desired future–whether that be a desired future for oneself, to satisfy the needs of a community of potential customers, or a national agenda for social and economic progress. Opportunity may come from many sources: the unexpected, a new disruptive technology, gaps in the relationship between suppliers and customers, changes in social norms and market structure, generational shifts, and competitive pressures. Examples of factors that may create new opportunities for the entrepreneur include the outbreak of conflict (the unexpected); breakdown in the relationship between banks and their customers (emergence of competitive offerings); robotics (new process needs); a generational shift in patterns vvof media consumption (change in industry structure), gourmet fast foods (changes in perception); genetic engineering (disruptive technology); herbal teas and other health foods (demographic shifts); and the personal computer industry (competitive pressures).

Entrepreneurship is also linked to our Design course. Entrepreneurs are able to put a process around the development of their venture, and in so doing they function like designers who are able to give shape to their idea, understand the needs of their stakeholders and prototype their way to a valuable result. The link between entrepreneurship and design can easily be seen from contrasting past and present approaches to teaching entrepreneurship. The traditional approach involved analysis of facts and preparation of extensive business plans. The contemporary or “lean” approach to entrepreneurship starts with ethnography, customer insight, intuitions about market needs and the building of early hypotheses from information gathered in the field.

The EdgeMaking course on Storytelling and Changemaking is also an important force multiplier for the entrepreneur. They must be able to develop stories that attract partners, investors, customers and employees; in short they must have communications and sales skills that can effect a desired change in perception and/or behavior. In so doing, they function as catalysts, bringing a change in the existing order of things.

The material covered in our Character and Collaboration course is also relevant and closely tied to entrepreneurial effectiveness. Through their leadership skills, entrepreneurs activate, focus and accelerate the journey towards a desired outcome. They have the self–knowledge and character skills to assemble effective teams and to work with a range of other stakeholders. They are willing to assume a reasonable level of risk and are able to tolerate uncertainty. They are adept at using, not necessarily striving to own, resources that are key to their venture. In contrast to popular conceptions of the entrepreneur as wild–eyed and impulsive, the real entrepreneurial skill set involves the ability to link inspiration to the application of disciplined and organized effort by one’s self and others in order to achieve results. And through force of personality, entrepreneurs energize the process with their zeal and passion to realize their vision.

It is important to note that social environment and purpose provide the context for EdgeMaking. Entrepreneurship is powerfully influenced by the environment, whether it is seen in organizational or societal terms. The culture and behavioral norms, attitudes towards risk, physical environment, availability of resources and freedom from the day–to–day all play a role in whether entrepreneurship is supported or inhibited. Different countries have different attitudes towards self–employment, wealth, risk and the availability of investment capital, which are only some of the factors relevant for entrepreneurship. The emergence of venture capital funds, incubators, accelerators and virtual networks are only some of the ways in which societies have begun to tackle the challenge of systematically supporting entrepreneurship. And a sense of purpose can play a fundamental role in guiding the entrepreneur towards realizing an opportunity whose goal is not necessarily the achievement of personal wealth, but rather contributing to a more just, peaceful and sustainable society.

So entrepreneurship maps to the entire EdgeMaking curriculum. Put in another way, entrepreneurs are EdgeMakers. Or to turn it around, EdgeMakers are entrepreneurs.