Tackling resilience and risk: Embracing the entrepreneurial mindset
Developing individual and organizational resilience along with the systems to take on calculated risks remains the top priority for CEOs
How can organizations scale operations sustainably? How should CHROs deal with the AI/Analytics tsunami? How should CEOs reimagine growth in a world where geopolitical instabilities are rising?
According to the Summer 2023 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey, about 64% of the surveyed leaders expect challenges in navigating uncertainties in markets, yet the optimism is high.
Despite the optimism and energy, CEOs across the board struggle with building resilience and embracing uncertainty.
According to the 12th United Nations Global Compact – Accenture CEO Study, building long-term resilience remains a top priority to thrive sustainably in the face of grand challenges and emergent technologies. Grand challenges—very large, complex, and difficult-to-solve problems that are important for the future of humanity, continue to worry corporate leaders.
Examples include weak and inaccessible healthcare systems; wealth and gender inequalities; limited access to high-quality affordable education and uncertain future of work and mobility.
Emergent technologies such as generative AI, predictive AI, cloud computing, IoT, blockchain, etc. add to their woes. Though many of these technologies appear disruptive, they are yet to demonstrate value creation/use cases.
Therefore, developing individual and organizational resilience along with the systems to take on calculated risks remains the top priority for CEOs.
Resilience is the ability of a business to withstand, adapt, and thrive in the face of shocks that are internal and external, as well as known and unanticipated.
Risk implies future uncertainty about deviation from expected earnings or expected outcomes.
One powerful source to learn about how to develop risk and resilience is the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are individuals who wade through uncertainty, experiment fiercely, learn from failures, and stay the purpose. These individuals have developed what one today refers to as an entrepreneurial mindset.
Mindset refers to an established set of attitudes held by someone that arises from one’s worldview. An entrepreneurial mindset refers to how the world views someone engaged in entrepreneurial action. Some aspects of such entrepreneurial individuals include practicing resourcefulness; being opportunity-prone; constantly experimenting; learning from failure; and staying true to causes.
Therefore, it is not surprising that people with an entrepreneurial mindset are resilient in the face of challenges and experiments taking calculated risks. Such entrepreneurial minds can be seen in successful startups (Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia), large corporations (Satya Nadella, Microsoft), and even amidst socially responsible enterprises (Dr GN Rao, LVPEI). They challenge the status quo and contribute to the world in significant ways. While we all agree that developing an entrepreneurial mindset will help build resilience and risk-taking abilities, the question of how one develops such an entrepreneurial mindset remains.
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset requires practice. Practice of constantly asking questions, engaging in experimentation, actively networking with colleagues across departments and domains, building prototypes, and testing them in real world settings. Doing all of these is not easy for entrepreneurs and employees.
For entrepreneurs, this comes more naturally, and today’s entrepreneurial ecosystem provides ample safe spaces (Tinkering Labs, Technology Business Incubators, Corporate Accelerators, etc.) to engage in entrepreneurial actions.
IIT Bombay’s SINE and IIT Madras’s Research Park are good examples of cultivating an entrepreneurial culture among aspiring founders.
Contrastingly, employees within organizations need greater support from their corporations, especially the necessary tools and a conducive environment for developing an entrepreneurial mindset.
Adobe’s Kickbox program is a classic case in point. Individual employees can pick a box and get going with their hypothesis without any approvals or permissions. It removes the bureaucracy from innovation processes, unleashes creativity and experimentation, and most importantly allows failure to flourish without remorse.
Scott Cook’s strong belief that failures seed the next great idea led to Intuit celebrating failure and honouring failed initiatives. Lazlo Bock of Google outlined how rewarding failure led to a culture of experimentation and risk-taking at Google.
Dr Rao at LV Prasad Eye Institute constantly prods his doctors and staff to challenge the status quo which has led LVPEI to be the global leader in novel medical treatments and top-tier publications from India. Over time, these organizations have demonstrated that embracing an entrepreneurial mindset results in greater resilience and risk-taking to repeatedly renew and thrive within their environments.
Tackling grand challenges and experimenting with disruptive technologies requires cooperation at a scale previously unimagined.
This requires managers and leaders across all sectors to take a leap of faith into unknown frontiers. Taking such leaps of faith requires enough resilience to muster the courage to take risks. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset provides the foundation for taking such leaps of faith, developing resilience, embracing uncertainty, and thriving happily in such an uncertain world.
Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset is not an option anymore. Think and act entrepreneurially, today!
(Author Raj Krishnan Shankar is an Associate professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, and Program Director at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai. Views expressed here are personal.)