3 traits of an entrepreneurial mindset

Entrepreneurship sparks innovation, drives employment, stimulates the economy, and offers solutions to a range of environmental and social challenges. But before those sparks and drivers ignite, an entrepreneurial mindset must be in place as a catalyst.

An entrepreneurial mindset helps leaders create value by “recognizing and acting on opportunities, making decisions with limited information, and remaining adaptable and resilient in uncertain and complex conditions,” says by Rowena Barrett, pro vice-chancellor for entrepreneurship at the Queensland University of Technology.

In a webinar presented by MIT Sloan and the QUT Business School, Barrett etthe managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, shared three characteristics that define an entrepreneurial mindset, regardless of environment.

“Entrepreneurship is much, much bigger than just startups,” Aulet said. “Entrepreneurs need to exist throughout our society not just in venture-backed startups. They have to exist in government, they have to exist in large corporations, they have to exist in non-profits, [and] they have to exist in academic institutions. We need entrepreneurs everywhere.”


Solution oriented

The entrepreneurial mindset is resilient, resourceful, and solutions-oriented — even when conditions say otherwise. People with these mindsets are lifelong seekers of knowledge who are curious and creative, and they are critical thinkers, Barrett says.

“They’re self-directed, action-oriented, highly focused,” Barrett said. “They have optimistic interpretations of adverse events” and see problems as potential opportunities.

“They’re about seeing others, and the value you can make for others by solving problems for others, and they surround themselves with an intentional community of positive influence and critical guidance,” says said Barrett.

Entrepreneurial mindsets understand that chasing and following something can lead to unexpected opportunities.


An entrepreneurial mindset embraces innovation, Aulet says, even if that’s not always taught in management school.

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“That doesn’t mean we need entrepreneurs and no management,” Aulet said. “We need leaders who are good. We need managers who are entrepreneurial and can switch to be managers when needed, and be entrepreneurs [when need be].”

When change happens, an entrepreneurial mindset guards the mission, he said.


Despite the prefix, anti-fragile is a positive condition and quality of an entrepreneurial mindset, says Aulet.

Anti-fragility has four parts:

  1. heart — The confidence to say when change occurs that it is not something to survive, but rather “this is what was built for us,” Aulet said.
  2. head — Understanding that when change happens, it’s time to act and have a plan for what you’re going to do.
  3. Hand — “It is not enough to know what to do when we go to war,” said Aulet. “We have to do it.” It is converting the knowledge of the head into the ability to do things.
  4. House — Building a community that helps you get resources, especially those you don’t control. Know what to do, have the ability to do it, Aulet says, “then you have to be able to marshal the resources very quickly to do it.”
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Anti-fragility and entrepreneurial mindsets must be developed at all levels of an organization, Aulet said.

“It’s a mindset, skillset and way of operating that will be needed universally for the challenges we have, not just startups around the world,” he said. “If we’re going to address climate change, if we’re going to address health care, if we’re going to address education, we can’t have startups doing that. We have to have large organizations that have infrastructure, balance sheets, other assets and global presence to address these major challenges.”

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