The Future is Entrepreneurial

Samantha Steidle, Ph.D. | Radford University | Venture Lab Director & Entrepreneurship Faculty | Nov 30, 2018

Why do so many people not understand the power of entrepreneurship? Perhaps the word “entrepreneurial” gives them hives or they have no idea how the word even applies to them. After all, they are not interested in starting a business so why should they care?

Here is why: Entrepreneurship is about so much more than starting a business. It is the future of work… but do not take my word for it. The World Economic Forum recently published a report called “The Future of Work.” To better understand what employers needed in future employees, they interviewed senior leaders from 371 top global employers, representing 13 million employees in nine sectors across 15 emerging economies, including the United States (World Economic Forum, 2016). The report found the top 10 employer-demanded skills were as follows: 1) complex problem solving, 2) critical thinking, 3) creativity, 4) people management, 5) coordinating with others, 6) emotional intelligence, 7) judgment and decision making, 8) service orientation, 9) negotiation, and 10) cognitive flexibility.

Some may be surprised that the most in-demand competencies consists of what many would call “soft-skills,” but the employers surveyed explained that technical skills were easier to train on the job. Soft and interpersonal skills were much more difficult (WEF, 2016). Interestingly, in study after study, these skills are each individually cited as key entrepreneurial competencies (Naumann, 2017). Employers are, in turn, asking academic institutions to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in students before they are actively applying for jobs.

I have spent years studying the entrepreneurial mindset, a concept that was introduced to me in 2013 by Gary Schoeniger, the founder of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative and the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs. According to Schoeniger, “Entrepreneurship is more than an academic discipline. It is a mindset; a framework for thinking and acting that can empower anyone to succeed. And, in today’s rapidly changing, highly complex world, the need for entrepreneurial thinkers at all levels of society has never been greater” (Schoeniger, n.d.).

Similarly, Aoun (2017), in Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, states that “A ‘robot-proof’ education is not concerned solely with filling student minds with high-octane facts. Rather, it calibrates them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or create something valuable to society” (p. xviii).

One thing is for certain. There is no greater and immediate need within the framework of higher education than to prepare our workforce for the technological tsunami that is about to hit us. A recent warning from John Chambers, Executive Chair of Cisco, captures the challenge. Chambers called for businesses to change, to “reinvent” themselves to avoid major disruptions in their operations; he warned that the coming disruptions will be brutal and “the majority of companies will not exist in a meaningful way 10 to 15 years from now” John Chambers (2016), Executive Chairman of Cisco. So, if you have ever wondered why the local community college cares so much about entrepreneurship, now you know.

While they understand that a majority of jobs stem from entrepreneurship, it is about much more than starting a business. It is also about the future of work.  

*An adapted version of the 2018 Roanoke Times Op-Ed: