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The Startup Journey: Phase 4

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OK, let’s just say entrepreneurs don’t run the world, but entrepreneurial thinkers and innovators do. The entrepreneurial journey can be broken into four main categories: theoretical development, idea to launch, launch to growth and the innovative mindset. Over the past few weeks, I have walked you through the life that is entrepreneurship through four phases — and with this post arrive at the final phase. I also have tied in UT Dallas academic and nonacademic programs in order to show you what the University has to offer; you don’t even have to leave campus, yet!

The Innovative Mindset

Innovation is a state of mind, man! It’s a philosophy, a being, an existence. That’s a bit ethereal, but the reality is that an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset is what often drives companies and people to drive growth, create value and change the world. I think it is fair to say that no one ever woke up in the morning thinking how much he or she hated the idea of changing the world.

An innovative mindset is a process and requires people to challenge fundamental assumptions about the way they, their peers, their organization and the world around them have historically done things. Many entrepreneurially minded individuals begin their journey by learning how to be an entrepreneur and then attempting to start a business. Ultimately, many of these wannapreneurs do not succeed. In fact, most fail, and that is perfectly fine. Not everyone should be an entrepreneur, but the world does not need hardworking, innovative and highly skilled employees driving growth and action in the corporate, nonprofit, academic and government sectors. This is where the innovative mindset kicks in.

What does this look like in practice? In many cases an innovative mindset emerges while someone is in college, is exposed to new ideas, the entrepreneurial process and leadership opportunities. I’m often asked, “What should I major in if I want to be an entrepreneur?” One option is always to consider a concentration in entrepreneurship. I personally believe that someone who wishes to think like an entrepreneur should first be great at something else. Be a great engineer, scientist, financial expert, accountant, energy manager, healthcare manager — or something else — and learn skills that enable you to innovate within an industry. Most successful entrepreneurs innovative within an industry they know by applying skills and knowledge they’ve acquired through years of work. Some of these people launch great businesses, but many more apply their innovative mindset into a specific sector and create real change.

UT Dallas offers a variety of programs to enable students to engage the innovative mindset. The first step in developing an innovative mindset is to take ENTP coursework. Some courses help you frame feasibility analysis and critical thinking skills, while others help you to innovate within a corporate environment or in new-product development. Additionally, each spring, we host an internship fair where students can find summer positions with local startup companies in order to learn the entrepreneurial process through helping to grow someone else’s business. Ultimately, developing and honing an innovative mindset happens over time and becomes more clear with practice and patience. To learn more about these and other programs visit the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship website.

Jeremy Vickers

Jeremy Vickers is the executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, where he leads a team focused on cross-campus startup activity and entrepreneurship curriculum. Prior to his arrival at UT Dallas, Jeremy was at the Dallas Regional Chamber from 2011 to 2015 as the vice president of innovation. He led strategy and program implementation to support building the North Texas innovation ecosystem. Read more articles

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