Entrepreneurial Thinking: Not Just for Start-Ups

Entrepreneurial Thinking: Not Just for Start-Ups

This article is sponsored by Oxford Brookes Business School. Find out more about its Global MBA program.

Entrepreneurship is not the sole preserve of the start-up community. The world is changing and the disruptive challenges that businesses face today mean that companies need their employees to think in new and different ways, to help drive them forward. In short, they need them to think entrepreneurially.  

Top business schools are responding to the desire and demand of students and organizations to develop this way of thinking. Skills such as influential leadership, innovation and creative critical thinking are foregrounded, allowing graduates to thrive when they return to the workplace.


Why develop an entrepreneurial attitude and behavior?

Dr Nicolette MichelsMost business schools offers entrepreneurship electives and/or tracks. The Oxford Brookes Global MBA is an example of a program with an entrepreneurial spine running through the entirety of the program. This is reflected by the school’s decision to make the ‘Entrepreneurial Behaviors and Practices’ module part of the core curriculum of the MBA.

After a broad introduction to entrepreneurial thinking, the program takes a three-pronged approach, looking at what it means to be enterprising on a personal, professional, and an organizational level. Before you can think about what an entrepreneurial organization looks like, or how these skills can be applied in different social and organizational contexts, it is first crucial to help individuals explore these qualities within themselves.

As Dr Nicolette Michels, director of the MBA program at Oxford Brookes Business School (pictured), puts it, “The world is now full of change, complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. Clearly, an entrepreneurial attitude and skills are more important than ever. We look at challenging tried and tested business models to say that we need to be more creative and think differently.”

Michels adds, “Many have no particular interest in entrepreneurship when they start the program, but it grows over the course of the MBA – partly because we introduce them to it, and partly because they develop a much greater self-awareness, confidence and a can-do attitude.”


Innovation is the key to remaining competitive

Mark GibbonsEntrepreneurial thinking isn’t just for those that want to go to business school to start a new business. Of course, many start-ups are conceived in this manner, and institutions understand the benefits of assisting students at whatever stage their businesses are at. More than that though, is the importance of thinking with a different mindset.

Irrespective of size, the companies of tomorrow recognize that innovation and creativity throughout the whole organization are key when it comes to remaining competitive. And being part of a large organization doesn’t mean that you can’t think entrepreneurially. Far from it. Taking risks or adopting new approaches that initiate change is just as important for somebody who has been working for the same company for 10 years as it is for someone trying to get a business off the ground.

The average age of the Global MBA class at Oxford Brookes is 37 – well established in their careers. The majority are self-funded; their business acumen allowing them to see for themselves the importance of honing an entrepreneurial mindset. For them, the key question is how they can return to their respective companies with new and innovative approaches to challenges they may face in the future.

As Oxford Brookes Global MBA student, Mark Gibbons, IT director at Tiffany & Co (pictured above) says, “Although it goes against the principles of global standardization, thinking more entrepreneurially when considering business challenges will help us be more profitable within the region. Instead of saying 'no, that's against corporate approach, we cannot support you', I'm trying to say 'how can we flex and bend a little to support this' more often. As my organization look to increase sales through innovative pop-up store locations, it's important that IT are not blockers, but enablers, and the entrepreneurial mindset that these modules has given me helps to make that happen”.


A different way of thinking and learning

Justin WilliamsOne of the many opportunities students have at Oxford Brookes to hone their entrepreneurial skills is on the ‘Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development’ experiential elective which includes a study trip across the UK to south Wales in a post-mining area with a large need of regeneration. The trip sees candidates hit the ground running, working with a number of different social enterprises, over the space of a week, to come up with tangible ideas to help the regeneration of the local community. This forces students to shake up their own way of thinking, before they spend a month working on a better researched business proposal in order to hand over something concrete to the community group.   

Oxford Brookes MBA student, Justin Williams (2018), chief executive of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Town Trust (pictured above) reflects how the field trip totally shifted his way of thinking, with lessons he can take back to his organization. “The week was transformative – the approach to learning in a real-life setting has provided me with some inspiration to shake up the conventional thinking and approach to interaction within the community funding organization that I work within. These thoughts have crystallized over the last week and I will be tabling a new direction and emphasis with my board next week – and have even delayed the release of our strategy to challenge the status-quo”.

This demonstrates how entrepreneurial thinking can be transferred from one problem to the next. Ultimately, what programs like the Oxford Brookes Global MBA are trying to instill is not the solution to any given problem or set of problems, but a future-proof mindset that will serve alumni for the duration of their careers.

This article is sponsored by Oxford Brookes Business School. 

Written by Phil Cottrell

Phil is the editor of TopMBA.com and has a breadth of editorial and digital marketing experience. He has worked across a variety of industries from e-commerce and commercial real estate to managing all content for a C-suite careers site aimed at UK and US professionals.

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