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Am I an entrepreneur?

April 12, 2017

The 10-point self-evaluation test

Being able to think and act entrepreneurially is the key skill of the 21st century. Those who are will make more of a difference, will advance their careers more rapidly and will be more successful—no matter whether they go into business for themselves or work as employees. From an entrepreneurial point of view, change and megatrends such as digitalization and globalization are an opportunity, not a threat. Our self-evaluation test will help you find out how closely your profile matches that of the ideal entrepreneur.

A female hand with a WU Executive Academy pencil taking notes on a notepad

A short questionnaire

Take a few moments to answer the following questions honestly and realistically. If you would like to get an unbiased view of your entrepreneurial qualities, ask 2 or 3 friends or colleagues to complete the questionnaire for you:

The 10-point self-evaluation test
Now, please calculate your total score for questions 1 to 5 and questions 6 to 10, respectively.

The qualities that make an entrepreneur

Joseph Schumpeter pointed out two fundamental qualities of entrepreneurs, describing them as individuals who identify and exploit new opportunities. Identifying opportunities refers to the ability to come up with innovative ideas, concepts and solutions. This requires, among other things, creativity, inquisitiveness, open-mindedness, problem-solving skills, a network of contacts and access to new information. Visionaries have an appreciation of the big picture, enabling them to develop the potential for game-changing innovation.

Exploiting opportunities refers to the act of tapping into this potential, i.e. to being willing and able to translate an innovative idea into a specific product, a process or a new business model. This requires other skills: a high degree of willingness to perform, strong leadership skills, perseverance, readiness to take risks, a considerable degree of flexibility when it comes to finding the best way of doing things—and know-how regarding the right methods and tools.

According to Victor Hugo nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. This sounds elegant and witty, but, alas, it is completely wrong. Even the best and most revolutionary of ideas are useless and will fail to overcome the inevitable resistance of the status quo unless somebody exploits them in a professional manner. Ideally, entrepreneurs bring both qualities to the table: They are visionaries capable of exploiting ideas.

Are you a visionary, an exploiter or an entrepreneur? Or an administrator?

Now, enter your total scores for questions 1 to 5 and questions 6 to 10, respectively, into the matrix. This will give you an idea of whether you are more of a visionary or more of an exploiter—or whether you are as much a visionary as you are an exploiter and, hence, belong to the rare species that are entrepreneurs. Moreover, your position in the matrix will help you determine what you can do in order to develop into a “full-fledged” entrepreneur.

What can you do?

If you seek to improve your mastery of the key skill of the 21st century, you can pursue two strategies to achieve your goal. To begin with, it is, of course, a good idea to work on your relative weaknesses. But focusing on your strengths can also make sense.

So, what exactly can you do when it comes to working on your weaknesses and improving your ability to identify business opportunities?

First of all, it is important to note that personality traits are thought to be relatively stable over time. Research evidence shows that a person's character is formed early in life. If, for instance, you lack inquisitiveness and are programmed to close your mind to new information, you will most probably find it difficult to unlearn this behavior completely. However, coaching sessions, leadership seminars and other forms of training can help you release blockages and achieve at least some improvement.

Focusing on your skills will be much easier. In order to do that, you need access to know-how and systematic training. Managers who seek to develop their skills often decide to attend MBA programs or other forms of graduate training. In my experience, this is a very sensible approach. It is not uncommon for graduates of our MBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation to tell me just how much they were able, in the course of the program, to improve their ability to identify new opportunities. Many of them tap into novel career opportunities, help their companies exploit innovative ideas or become entrepreneurs themselves.

The diversity of our program and our students is crucially important in this context, which is why, during admission, we put special emphasis on the mix of countries, educational backgrounds, industries, fields and functions. Experience shows that a typical MBA specialization of 20 to 30 students brings together 8 to 10 nationalities. Apart from engineers and scientists, there are legal experts and economists as well as seemingly “exotic” participants such as industrial designers, political scientists or artists. Our students work in a broad spectrum of fields, ranging from telecommunications to mechanical engineering and consumer goods all the way to politics and the culture, entertainment and media industries. It is this variety that leads to intriguing discussions and, even more importantly, opens up new entrepreneurial opportunities for program participants.

What can you do to develop from a visionary into an entrepreneur, i.e. to improve your ability to exploit entrepreneurial opportunities? Again, it is important to note that personality traits, such as willingness to perform, perseverance or mental flexibility, can be improved only gradually and up to a point. Here too, systematic training is extremely helpful. Graduate education is, obviously, a particularly valuable asset as far as question 10 - innovation leadership - is concerned. You arguably cannot gain more direct access to entrepreneurial tools and skills than by attending a practical part-time program that brings theory and practice together. You can, of course, try to go it alone and pursue a learning-by-doing approach. Yet our MBA students tell me time and again how much they benefit from developing their understanding of the necessary tools and methodological know-how under expert guidance, from gaining new perspectives in the course of exchanging views and opinions with like-minded people, and from honing their skills during practice sessions.

So, entrepreneurial tools and skills can be acquired. That's the good news for aspiring entrepreneurs. The bad news, though, is that this does not happen by itself—you have to work on it :-)!

Matrix of identifying opportunities and exploiting opportunities

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