Entrepreneurship – Peter Drucker’s magic formula for the 21st century

July 17, 2020


In the 19th century, professional success was a question of being able to read and write. In the 20th century, you had to be proficient in English and computer literate in order to succeed. “What matters in the 21st century is the ability to think and act like an entrepreneur, as the shift from an employee society towards an entrepreneurial society is unstoppable,” says Prof. Nikolaus Franke, Academic Director of the WU Executive Academy's Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Head of WU Vienna's Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

A man taking notes while listening to a presentation
Innovation requires a person to be passionate about developing something into a product or service.

In his landmark book Innovation and Entrepreneurship, published in 1985, Peter Drucker already anticipated the shift towards a society that is that is characterized by entrepreneurship, innovation and dynamics. Based upon the ideas of another great Austrian thinker, Joseph Schumpeter, the entrepreneur should be, according to his opinion, in the heart of the economic life – as the driving force of a market-based, competitive and wealth-creating economy.

The entrepreneurial society

Peter Drucker turned out to be right. Never before in the history of mankind has change had a bigger impact on business and society than today. Change invariably creates room for innovation, and those unable to adapt will not survive. Innovation is the key to successful competition, growth, progress and prosperity. “But innovation does not happen on its own. It takes people who are passionate about making it happen: Someone needs to identify opportunities for innovation, turn ideas into products, services or business models and help them succeed in the face of adversity. And this is exactly what entrepreneurs do,” explains Prof. Franke.

Nikolaus Franke

Prof. Nikolaus Franke

  • Academic Co-Director | Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation

In a recent study, based on a survey among members of the top management of the world's 350 largest businesses, the World Economic Forum has found that digitalization and robotization, or Industry 4.0, will lead to the loss of five million jobs around the world by 2020. This trend will affect mainly jobs at the lower end of the qualification ladder that involve routinized work. However, the number of higher skilled jobs created further up the ladder will be greater than the losses at the bottom. Those capable of thinking and acting in an entrepreneurial manner will stand out from the rest because entrepreneurship cannot be automated.

Today, big multinationals or government-related businesses are no longer job creators. In fact, the number of people they employ has been declining around the world for years. It is innovative start-ups and SMEs that will provide exciting jobs in the future. But entrepreneurs are, of course, needed not only when it comes to starting businesses. More and more large companies are putting a special emphasis on getting people with a distinct entrepreneurial mindset on board, the so-called intrapreneurs. No matter whether in management, administration, politics or culture, change is happening and this should be thought of as an opportunity for innovation.

A group of Asians looking interested at something
For modern, innovative companies, it’s absolutely necessary to have a team of motivated employees who can identify with entrepreneurship at an individual level and get excited about it.

Can you learn entrepreneurship?

“I think you not only can—you must! Nobody is born with the knowledge you need to identify and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities. You can try to go it alone. But having to make every mistake yourself is painful. It is easier to take advantage of existing knowledge and other people's experience,” concludes Prof. Franke.

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