Shifting the Paradigm of Entrepreneurship

Most entrepreneurial programs believe that entrepreneurial success can be managed or unlocked by sending entrepreneurs on “conventional journeys” that consist of elements that revolve around access to mentors, advisors and technical resources. These “conventional journeys” are externally focused. History demonstrates that things don’t become routine without proof of concept. Of course, elements of the conventional journey are important and add value.

But based on my research and experience, I believe that rather than steering entrepreneurs towards a “conventional journey,” we need to support them in designing unique, “unconventional journeys”  that center the inner work foundational to entrepreneurship. I saw this in my own life when I met with entrepreneurs across 6 continents. Throughout those conversations, these passionate entrepreneurs highlighted the insights that hindsight afforded them. They spoke of a greater awareness of how their mindset influenced their decisions and the way they navigated setbacks. They shared reflections about how their thinking influenced their courage. They spoke about resilience. Interestingly, the entrepreneurial ecosystem also tends to focus on the internal capacity of the entrepreneur in its post-analysis of unsuccessful ventures. The entrepreneur’s capacity, or lack thereof, is cited as the central reason for the failure. Yet, the journey on which they were sent focused them on external elements rather than on building internal capacity. This all points towards the need for a paradigm shift in how the entrepreneurial ecosystem thinks about the entrepreneurial journey.

Many who pursue entrepreneurship set out to innovate, to disrupt. Thus, it seems strange that the ecosystem typically points them towards a journey grounded in the conventional. If the desired output is innovation, why steer entrepreneurs solely towards rather conventional inputs as the path to building a successful venture? How the entrepreneurial ecosystem constructs the entrepreneurial journey requires a paradigm shift.

What is meant by the term “conventional journey”? First, it tends to have a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Its aim is to move entrepreneurs through activities like market validation, marketing, raising capital, meeting with mentors/advisors, and scaling (not comprehensive) efficiently. While each of these offers value, they focus on a formula that neglects a vitally important variable: the inner state of the entrepreneur. In addition, the “conventional journey” is primarily externally-focused. Its orientation deprioritizes focus on the inner work that is necessary to develop the entrepreneur. Or, when integrated into the journey, it is often delivered to entrepreneurs who receive it as passive recipients. In summary, the “conventional journey” neglects the inner work that equips the entrepreneur to build & lead their venture.

Think about it using the following framework. There are 2 spheres in which entrepreneurs operate. First, there is the sphere of influence. Then, there is the sphere of control. The entrepreneur can only place ONE thing within the sphere of control: themselves. Every entrepreneur has the ability to emotionally self-regulate and control how they lead themselves. Everything else falls within the entrepreneur’s sphere of influence. Leadership is an activity focused on influencing (not controlling) others. As such, entrepreneurs influence the results of marketing activities, fundraising, scaling, etc. They do not control the outcomes. The inner work matters because entrepreneurs who can self-manage and lead themselves possess greater capacity to deal with what falls within their sphere of influence. Yet, most entrepreneurs are sold a “conventional journey” that centers everything that lies outside of their control.

How the entrepreneurial ecosystem thinks about the journeys it shapes for entrepreneurs requires a paradigm shift. Rather than pointing entrepreneurs towards a “conventional journey,” we must support them in designing unique, “unconventional journeys.” Rather than focusing externally, these journeys will center the internal work that equips them to develop the capacity necessary for the innovative, disruptive ventures they are laboring to build.

If you would like to learn more about what a unique, unconventional journey could look like, book a discovery call to learn more.