The newsletter / blog I wrote last week entitled the Pandemic Revolution …. Then what? about the four revolutions we are experiencing simultaneously, seems to have really struck a chord with people given the response I had. Thank you to everyone who reached out over the last week to connect and comment (and ask for references).
One particularly insightful response from one of my readers in Belgium, Olivier, has prompted this week’s offering. He said (and I paraphrase), “Great article – but it’s missing something – the MENTALITY revolution. We are facing one of the toughest times ever and we now need to THINK differently.” SPOT ON OLIVIER!
So here it is – the OTHER revolution which is so fundamental that it deserves a newsletter to itself. So, hope you are ok with long-form (and a bit of stream-of-consciousness and some cog psyc geekiness) for this newsletter. There are also a number of embedded links to some of my previous blogs from the last few years if you want to take a deeper dive. They have renewed relevance in a post-Covid world.
The MINDSET revolution.
Rather than give you a bunch of stats from the World Economic Forum and other research about economic competitiveness and organisational and leadership redesign in the new world, I’m going to draw on my 40 years of learning and experience as a passionate educator with a particular interest in cognitive psychology to shine a light on an issue that is so fundamental that without getting this right – nothing else works.
How we THINK!
How we THINK determines how we live and BE; it drives our decision-making, our problem-solving, our perception (of self, others, the world, circumstances); it determines how we set goals, rise to challenges (or not), learn new things (or not), adapt to changing circumstances (or not); it influences our levels of optimism, motivation, self-confidence, interpretations of things that happen to us and expectations of success. The list goes on – but you get the picture.
Some background first – so bear with me.
How we think is filtered through our mental models – the cognitive frameworks (schemas) that have been built up over time through which we make sense of the world. This is our mindset. For the most part, we are not even aware of our mindset and how it influences our behaviour. (A fish doesn’t know it is swimming in water).
Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Then how can we possibly change or evolve our mindset (let alone ‘revolutionise’ it) if we are not even aware of it? Short answer – firstly start by engaging in some metacognition. Then learn how to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset (more on that in a minute). First – what is metacognition.
• Why am I feeling this way?
• What is making this situation so challenging for me?
• What do I see if I look at this situation from a different point of view? (A particularly good question if your challenge involves a conflict with someone else)
• Where is the learning in this for me?
• How can I benefit from this experience?
• What worked well and why / what didn’t work well and why?
• If I had to do this all over again – what would I do differently and why?
We do ourselves a favour when we regularly set aside some thinking time in our busy lives. Henry Ford famously said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it.” Thinking and (by extension) doing differently is indeed hard work because it may require us to transcend some of our deeply held beliefs and embedded mental models.
Right now, in our disrupted world we are being challenged to be adaptable – in our thinking, in how we work, solve problems, live on this planet, teach our children, share resources, prepare for and shape the kind of future we all want to live in. How do we do this? Short answer – embrace an entrepreneurial mindset.
The Entrepreneurial Mindset
Important point of clarification – the entrepreneurial mindset is NOT about wanting to start a new business. Some of the world’s MOST entrepreneurial thinkers work INSIDE established enterprises. Grab a copy of my book Intrapreneur for lots of examples of this.
Someone who has an entrepreneurial mindset is someone who …
1. Finds opportunities
• even, and especially, in the midst of difficulties and challenges (like now!)
2. Has a sense of self-efficacy and agency
• believes they can make a difference and create change
3. Is motivated by a sense of purpose
• driven by internal (intrinsic) reasons such as a sense of personal fulfilment and achievement rather than external (extrinsic) rewards given by others
4. Demonstrates antifragility
• comes back from set-backs and difficulties even better and stronger
5. Experiments with new ways of doing things and solving problems
• prepared to be curious and creative enough to take risks in order to transcend the norm and BAU to find better outcomes and create value
6. Is prepared to learn whatever they need to when they need to
• is a learning agile, life-long learner with a growth mindset (see my 2018 blog)
How do we develop the Entrepreneurial Mindset?
This consideration is at the core of all my work these days in my leadership and intrapreneurialism mentoring programs. Let me briefly share my methodology for developing the entrepreneurial mindset and then draw some wider applications.
My role is to create and hold the ‘space’ that people step into in order to go on a parallel journey of both personal and professional development. In a nutshell, it looks like this:
- People develop their skills in the context of solving a real-world, authentic problem. We apply ourselves and learn differently when the outcome actually matters versus learning in a decontextualised, controlled environment. Real workplace problems are messy and ill-defined with many moving parts. This approach is referred to as problem (or project) based learning and is at the heart of good design for educating adults. It opens the door to learning a constellation of skills that are associated with the entrepreneurial mindset – collaboration, continual and iterative problem-solving, just-in-time learning, progressive rescoping and redesign of an emerging solution – all the while looking for the opportunities that only present themselves en-route.
- Through a process of guided mastery people address different kinds of challenges with varying degrees of difficulty in order to build self-efficacy (confidence in their capacities) and facilitate knowledge transfer. Knowledge transfer in the cognitive psychology literature is where people develop the cognitive flexibility to adapt and apply learning from one context into another context. If the contexts are similar this is called near transfer but if they are really different – that is called far transfer. Suffice to say that the more practice we get at knowledge transfer (especially far transfer) – the more likely we are to be better and more creative problem-solvers, boundary crossers and interdisciplinary thinkers – very important in a world of increasing complexity. Check out my blog from last year if you want an example of a brilliant interdisciplinary thinker.
- People challenge themselves to learn by doing differently i.e., what would they normally do when solving this or a similar problem – and don’t do that. This can take the form of a series of micro-projects as people iteratively trial different solutions to progressively discover what might or might not work. This way of proceeding creates a ‘safe-to-fail’ environment – it allows risk-taking but if something doesn’t work out – you haven’t bet the farm on it. It is an important consideration as I often work with leaders in highly risk averse contexts such as healthcare and engineering who nonetheless need to develop the entrepreneurial mindset.
I believe that anyone can learn the entrepreneurial mindset – if they want to. Some will, some won’t. I would go so far as to say that in this decade applying an entrepreneurial mindset and approaches to our work will be critical to career success. And in a world where every sector is being challenged to think differently about how they deliver their core business; organisations will need a critical mass of people with this mindset i.e. INTRAPRENEURS – if they want to keep energised and relevant.
So yes Olivier, I agree, we need a MENTALITY revolution. Thanks for the prompt.
If you want to nurture intrapreneurialism and innovation in your organisation or team here are some ways I can help
1. Check out the range of services on my website.
Everything from a short 15- 30 min virtual ‘drop in’ for a team meeting …. through to a six-month transformative mentoring program.
2. Join the Global Intrapreneurs Institute.
This is an on-line, world-wide, educational community dedicated to supporting intrapreneurs and liberating enterprising talent. Join as an individual or sign up your entire organisation on a corporate package.
3. Work with me privately.
If you’d like to work directly with me just send me a message with the subject line ‘Working together’ and tell me a little about what you need. Alternatively request a free strategy session via my website.
4. Uncover the hidden innovation talent in your workforce with this next-gen profiling tool from Silicon Valley based tech firm Swarm Vision.