What makes entrepreneurs successful?
Entrepreneurship is a dream, a talent, and a vision. Without them, we would all just be ordinary people doing ordinary jobs. So what makes entrepreneurs successful?
Personally, I think being an outsider is very important. First, you have the freedom to be creative. No one tells you what to do, or what type of mindset to have to turn the business around and go bigger. You can approach whatever problems you face with no pressure to meet anything your competitors have achieved.
Second, and most importantly, being an outsider gives you a valuable advantage over other would-be entrepreneurs. This advantage is called soft-box thinking.
Hard-box thinking is understanding how things actually work, and operating from a fixed mindset, but soft-box thinking is not limiting and focused on how things can be changed. In other words, it is part of soft-box thinking that a new way to approach problems, and a new mindset to think about tackling an issue, can be very empowering.
Take example, the current debate surrounding immigration. In the US, an agreement on how to deal with illegal immigration by 2015, and whether to give amnesty to those who have entered the country illegally, was struggling.
However, another outsider – a second-generation Australian immigrant – decided to step in. Nick Tsiamalis wrote a paper which showed that Australian immigration was key to industry growth, and offer opportunities to immigrants in these areas. Tsiamalis’ paper offered a more positive way to view immigration, and gave a tangible reality of how immigrants were different than those who came before them, and how they contributed to the growth of the country.
Likewise, a foreign-born entrepreneur and one of the biggest successes in the food industry took on the dairy industry in Iceland, changed the industry’s outlook, and contributed to a reversal of fortunes for farmers.
Former ODI and CERN boss, Alain de Botton was one of the first to understand the importance of embracing soft-box thinking when forming a vision for a future that was different to the current one. According to him, this was key to creating successful “self-starting” companies.
His idea was to separate the self-starting idea from all the traditional ways of thinking that leads to ailing companies. He argued that without break from traditional ways of working, small-scale companies would not be able to break through. And without breaking the traditional framework, there was no possibility of success in these companies. By breaking the traditional rules of thinking, the mind was allowed to unleash its energy and potential, and it allowed small-scale companies to succeed.
The difference between hard-box thinking and soft-box thinking is very important. As hard-box thinking is limited and exacting, it locks the “outside-in” into a kind of dependency, which leads to leading and planning from a negative position. Soft-box thinking is based on understanding how things work, while not excluding others, and we are all open to learn. It is focused on how you can change things, not on how things are, and how others must be to change things for you.