I recently had a conversation with a group of like-minded individuals (you know, the kind that’s always asking questions, always seeking more information to enrich their lives with knowledge), that started with the question “Do you have an Employee or Entrepreneur mindset?”
Considering the forum the topic was being discussed in, it was no surprise that the overwhelming majority claimed to have an entrepreneur mindset. As the interaction started waning, one of the participants threw a curveball that led to a rather heated tangent. Is it wrong to have an employee mindset?
Before we assume the role of judge and jury and start deciding who is wrong or right, why don’t we have a look at what each of these need to be classed the way they are.
The entrepreneur, by its definition, is someone who starts new businesses, often from innovative ideas and assumes the risk of the new business and enjoys often by themselves, the financial benefits thereof.
The term was coined by Frenchman Jacques des Bruslons in 1723. It was however not until the late 19th century, that the term became a buzz-word for trendsetters in business, who were seen as catalysts for modern capitalism. Joseph Schumpeter in 1920 gave it what I consider the most accurate description of entrepreneurship as “The willingness and ability to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation.”
The mindset of the Entrepreneur is accentuated by phrases such as visionary, risk-taker, initiator, big picture thinker and, navigator. These traits are even desirable in some employees, where the future growth of the organisation depends on them.
“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” Peter Drucker
Traditionally we have all been groomed from the first day we walked into a classroom, to be an employee. With each of the industrial revolutions (take your pick of any of the 4!), students were groomed to fit into a specific mold, that would facilitate economies to strengthen and grow in whatever field was the hype at the time.
Fitting into a mold implies compliance. Do you fit in? Employees are required to fit into set structures offered by organisations big and small. Specific skill sets, supported and enforced by expensive university or college degrees and diplomas, decide where you will ply your trade. There is seldom room for maneuverability, and for the better part, employees are expected to follow, even though they may be required to be innovative. There is much less risk involved, and correspondingly (in most cases), less financial benefit.
The employee mindset in contrast to the entrepreneur lends itself to labels on the safer scale of our vocabulary; Compliance, structure, stability, peace of mind.
As we prepare to hand down our sentence, we need to be reminded that we are not judging whether being an employee is wrong, but whether having an employee mindset could be.
If we had to assign a single word to each of these mindsets, and perhaps translate them into less buzz-wordy terms we would change the Entrepreneur Mindset to a Growth mindset, and the Employee Mindset to a Stability mindset. As we can now use terms we understand, and can each relate to, we can also see that there is no single organisation in existence today, that can exists without either of these mindsets.
The oldest most established boring audit firm needs people with growth mindsets to expand and to take on new technology. A visionary, and pioneering company as exciting as the Virgin group, needs people with stability mindsets, to ensure proper service delivery, regulatory compliance and much more is not left in the wake of the next mission to Mars.
We must appreciate that not all people are created equal, and accordingly, our dreams, desires, and needs in life simply cannot all be the same.
Whichever mindset you have, you are dependent on the other. Companies cannot be started without Growth (Entrepreneur) mindsets, and companies cannot operate without stability (Employee) mindsets.
Has the jury reached a verdict?
Yes, your honour, we have. On the count of being wrong by having an employee mindset, the jury finds the defendant NOT GUILTY.