woman watering plant symbolising ideas and entrepreneurial mindset

The (not so) secret ingredient for innovation: entrepreneurial mindset

According to popular wisdom, the most innovative companies are usually startups or smaller organisations: they haven’t yet become so big and cumbersome that they’re too caught up in policies, rules and procedures to be able to innovate.

And sure, many of the more disruptive innovations have traditionally come from smaller teams. But that’s been changing for quite a while now, as larger organisations decide to dedicate resources to creating a culture and environment that encourages entrepreneurial thinking and radical ideas.

For instance, take a look at 2016’s most innovative companies, according to the Australian Financial Review. Sure, many of them were newer, smaller enterprises with anywhere from 10 to 500 employees. But number 3 on the list was none other than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, with 52,000 employees. Number 9 was the Government-run CSIRO. Number 12 was PWC Australia.

What makes the CBA similar to the most innovative company on the list, the aptly named Planet Innovation (who was also BRW’s most innovative company for the third year in a row)? The latter took out the top spot for developing a new type of portable diagnostic device for diseases such as influenza and HIV, which meant they no longer needed to be diagnosed in a lab. The CBA developed an app for home buyers that showed market and affordability information for each property, including property values, upfront costs, repayments and so on, to give people a better understanding of what they could afford and their financial obligations.

Both of these companies are committed to innovation and have the leadership, culture and environment to encourage it across all levels of the business.

Planet Innovation believes that what a company celebrates plays a huge part in defining company culture. They choose to celebrate the innovative activities, projects, and achievements of their people, both inside and outside of work.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia is quite famously known for its Innovation Lab, which includes collaboration hubs, hackathons and working ‘Garages’. They’re also strongly focused on diversity, equality and a flexible working environment.

They’re two companies that, like many – if not most – others today, are focusing on creating environments that encourage ideas, experimentation, original thinking and innovation. And that’s fantastic. But even the most incredible environment is nothing without leaders who support and encourage innovation, and a culture that has innovation ‘baked in’.

Entrepreneurial spirit feeds a culture of innovation


We could spend ages trying to come up with a definition of culture. At its broadest, it’s all about the values, beliefs, attitudes, assumptions and behaviours shared by an organisation’s people. And when you’re trying to create an agile environment that encourages disruptive and original thinking, culture plays a significant part.

Unfortunately, sometimes culture can lag behind environmental change. For example, while you might have flexible working environments and regular hackathons, success is always going to depend on the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours your people bring to the table.

An entrepreneurial spirit or mindset is, according to Jacquelyn Smith of Forbes, an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. And it’s the kind of approach that organisations are seeking to promote by investing in environmental measures that encourage innovation.

Some of the key ingredients that make up an entrepreneurial spirit or mindset are:

  • A growth mindset, being willing to step outside of comfort zones
  • Resilience: recovering quickly from setbacks and ‘failing fast’
  • Taking (calculated) risks
  • Embracing uncertainty or ambiguity
  • Passion and enthusiasm
  • Focusing on continuous learning and improvement
  • Collaborating with others
  • Executing their ideas, learning and iterating.


All of these attributes will help teams and individuals to come up with new, exciting and creative ways to solve problems or improve systems and products. And while we can certainly focus on hiring people who exhibit these qualities, and will adopt an agile and innovative approach, what about our existing teams?

Changing behaviour: how can we adopt an entrepreneurial mindset?


It’s really hard to change ingrained attitudes and behaviours. For example, if your organisation or team is used to blaming other departments, other team members or their leaders when things go wrong, it’s incredibly challenging to change that behaviour and shift from a culture of blame to a more solution-focused approach.

It’s difficult, but not impossible. When we change the stories we tell each other, or the language we use as an organisation, we can move away from old or ingrained patterns of thinking that don’t foster creative and innovation thinking, towards new, inspiring and positive language and values that an promote entrepreneurial mindset.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share with you some short, fun and engaging Cafe Style Micro Learning activities with you that help you to ignite this entrepreneurial spirit in your people and teams. Each activity is highly experiential, so participants can experience the desired behaviours and mindsets themselves, which also means that behavioural changes are likely to become embedded more quickly.

You can deliver the activities yourself, in a break or during a meeting, in around 20-30 minutes. Each activity focuses on one or more attributes of the entrepreneurial mindset, to help your people experience and develop the right attitudes for themselves.

Activity 1: Chain Reaction


Entrepreneurial spirit activity 1 - chain reactionPeople with an entrepreneurial mindset are continually looking for solutions, rather than focusing on problems and allocating blame. This short, fun activity helps people to experience the difference between the language of blaming others and being a ‘future framer’ or problem-solver, to lay the foundations for change, collaboration and creative thinking.




Enter your details to download the activity now.

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Workshop InformationDue to the popularity of her corporate events, Julie is running a limited number of sessions open to the public. To learn how to manage smart people, lead with curiosity, and meet your goals in a hands-on, facilitated environment, attend one of Julie’s workshops.