Babson Entrepreneur Experience Lab

Elements of the Entrepreneur Experience

Learning

Know-What and Know-How

Knowing how to act entrepreneurially does not always come naturally. Figuring this out takes a combination of outside knowledge with experiential learning. Entrepreneurs inside suffer from lack of precedents in their organization—others who think and act entrepreneurially—and as a result, are either forced to look elsewhere for insight or figure it out through learning on the job. Always being pressed for time, outside sources of knowledge for EIs must be efficient and expeditious.

Opportunities

  1. How can we help people and organizations develop an “unlearning curve?”

  2. How can we help people reshape old habits to yield new entrepreneurial behaviors?

  3. How can we capture and share tacit knowledge?

  4. How can we better guide experiential learning on the job?

De-Education

De-Education

Scott

Scott discusses the desire to have employees that also have entrepreneurial traits.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnHAA.html

Jessica

Jess talks about "finding her voice."

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyPZwA.html

Jessica

Jessica talks about not wanting to hand projects off, and always wants to be involved.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv2fQA.html

Part of being an entrepreneur is unlearning prior behaviors that don't serve anymore. Some of these behavioral habits include disengagement, perfectionism, working to a performance evaluation, holding onto an idea too tightly, executing the ideas of others, little practice of the ability to make decisions, or practicing the “hand-off,” where organizational problems get passed along a chain of others with no real action taken by anyone. Once these habits are recognized, EIs adjust how they work and begin to shape new behaviors such as increased participation, taking ownership and responsibility, and thinking independently. Unlearning can be one of the most difficult tasks for entrepreneurs inside.  Jonah, a founder of a local food co-op, likens it to “deprogramming.”  Jessica, a change agent working in a non-profit organization, considers herself a “control freak,” making it difficult to pass on responsibilities to others without contributing to every step. She realizes that this makes things more difficult, and that it’s necessary to entrust others during the process of bringing an idea into fruition.

Two types of knowledge needed

Two types of knowledge needed

Scott

Scott talks about having to read the competitive landscape while aligning with specific market.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnJgA.html

Jessica

Jess talks about the setup to pitching her new role.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyPdAA.html

Jessica

Jessica describes entrepreneurship as a mindset - knowing how rather than what.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv3BQA.html

It is necessary for entrepreneurs inside to be well equipped in two areas of knowledge—core or domain knowledge and organizational knowledge. Domain knowledge is the basic knowledge around an EI’s product, service, or field. Without it, entrepreneurs inside have little credibility or the ability to find opportunities. Organizational knowledge, on the other hand, is more about “know-how.” It’s a tacit, experiential understanding of how to successfully operate as an entrepreneur inside. It requires thinking like an anthropologist—being skilled in social networking and creating organizational relationships beyond the org chart. One must practice “opposition research”— know what you are getting into by reading the landscape of the organization, and grasping the history, language and politics of the players.

School me only when necessary

School me only when necessary

Katie

Katie describes how being entrepreneurial is being resourceful.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv3IgA.html

Hannah

Hannah talks about various skills she needs to gain as her role continues to grow.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnTwA.html

In the same way that new venture entrepreneurs learn informally, entrepreneurs inside learn on the job. Most say that “none of their schooling prepared [them] for this [way of working].” The number and different types of responsibilities EIs must shoulder can stretch their knowledge capacity to the limit. Additionally, lack of organizational training and development can lengthen the learning curve. Yet, few are motivated to return to formal education until they hit a roadblock in promotion or are refused the opportunity to take on new responsibilities. Hannah, a food systems activist, is aware that she’s reaching a point where she judges herself unable to take on certain responsibilities which will continue to expand her role in the organization. She knows that more schooling is an option, but she wants to push her capacity to see what she can accomplish without it, and will return to school only if necessary. "I'm trying to identify the next educational pieces I need, but prefer learning in an applied way. Maybe that makes me more likely to do entrepreneurial work. I'd much rather organize a project rather than write a paper."

Book smart

Book smart

Scott

Scott talks about various publications he reads to help position himself to current trends.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnBQA.html

Pam

Pam talks about attending events to feel connected to a larger group with similar goals for learning.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyOZAA.html

Jessica

Jessica describes learning from her social network.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv2ZQA.html

With few precedents or mentors,  EI often turn to the churn of business books, publications and industry conferences as a guide to innovate within their industry. Given their time constraints, if they’re not listening to audio books during their daily commute, EI will use social media, journals, articles and blogs as quick and constant sources of the latest buzz. Social media follow features allow EI to monitor “smart and interesting” people and thought leaders who point to new sources for thinking and ideas.

Drawing from life experiences

Drawing from life experiences

Scott

Scott describes past learning experiences that have helped him develop skills.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvmdgA.html

Jeff

Jeff describes having a business mind within the church.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnPwA.html

Pam

Pam talks about previous experiences being translated into useful learnings now.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyOZQA.html

Danielle

Danielle tells a story learning to discover opportunities throughout her life.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvncAA.html

Several EI recall early life or career experiences which helped them internalize learned behaviors that play a guiding role in new contexts. Adam cites “working to end dysfunction in my family” as his first entrepreneurial “venture” and has carried the learning from this experience into each new entrepreneurial endeavor in schools, companies and communities. Danielle, a university president, internalized an “opportunity always” mindset from watching her grandmother turn every mistake into a new opportunity. When one idea is flailing, she often looks for another context or opportunity to apply it within. Pam describes how the methods she developed as a pajama designer are the same she’s applying to housing development in rural communities. “I was able to go out and shop for new trends, design sample garments, then produce the garments and sell them all through a one stop shop. The whole (fashion) process took 6-12 months. Eventually I was able to bring that down to 5 months at 75% reduction in price. So I followed those kinds of methods on every product line I’ve ever [been part of]—how do you do it faster, more efficient and more interesting, and make it so it’s accessible to most people. In a sense they seem quite different, housing and jammies, but it turns out they’re quite the same.”