Cultivating a Culture of Entrepreneurial Mindset and Undergraduate Research

STEM Entrepreneurial Mindset

What is an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

An entrepreneurial mindset is a set of beliefs, knowledge, and thought processes that equips people to recognize opportunities, take initiative, and succeed in diverse settings. CURE-E introduces students to entrepreneurial concepts by bringing EM experiences into the classroom, providing students with tools to assess and reflect upon their EM.

Entrepreneurs are not born. Anyone can develop an entrepreneurial mindset. You just need to learn to think like an entrepreneur. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship developed eight skills and characteristics that embody the Entrepreneurial Mindset:

Entrepreneurial mindset skills and characteristics

Why an Entrepreneurial Mindset is important for students

Employability skills are rapidly changing within industries and employment opportunities. Future jobs will require tremendous adaptation. Narrowly focusing on one’s skills can lead to a dead-end or jobs that no longer exist.

"65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist." January 2016, World Economic Forum

An Entrepreneurial Mindset (EM) enhances a student's education by teaching them perseverance, tenacity, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration so they can identify problems and find solutions. Research shows that an entrepreneurial mindset is highly sought after by employers and improves student educational completion and achievement.  

“Yesterday’s ‘soft’ skills are the hard skills of the future.” Supporting the next generation, The entrepreneurial mindset and the future of work, A research brief presented by EY and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, 2018

Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset is about learning the skills, reflecting on the behaviors, and challenging the norms to empower oneself to persevere in the face of challenges.

"…adaptation will require higher educational attainment, or spending more time on activities that require social and emotional skills, creativity, high-level cognitive capabilities and other skills relatively hard to automate." Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation, McKinsey Global Institute, Dec. 2017

Students with an EM focus their attention on creating value for others. This other-centered approach naturally adapts to a powerful approach to design called Design Thinking where the entrepreneur develops skills in deep listening, observation, and empathy to better design solutions to complex problems. Human-centered design focuses on deeply understanding the users' experiences and pain-points through building empathy, creative problem solving, testing, and iterating. CURE-E leverages much of the work from the Stanford School of Design and  Learn more about human-centered design and download the free Field Guide to Human-Centered Design.(opens in new window)

Entrepreneurial Mindset: The belief that ones positive attitude and robust and intentioned behaviors create amazing solutions to both the smallest and largest problems in our world.

Human-Centered Design or Design Thinking: People are at the center of all potential opportunities and therefore are the ones with the best solutions.

Combining EM and Design Thinking with undergraduate research opportunities in the classroom gives students a framework to build confidence and understanding to persevere through their educational challenges and connect their learning and understanding to the world around them. An entrepreneurial mindset teaches students to learn from failure:

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship has excellent resources and research on the benefits of an Entrepreneurial Mindset. Learn more about the Entrepreneurial Mindset.(opens in new window)

How to develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset in students

The entrepreneurial mindset can be implemented into a class, a lesson, or an activity. It starts by first recognizing the states of mind that an entrepreneur experiences along their journey toward creating value and finding opportunity. The following three phases are at the heart of the entrepreneurial experience and design thinking: Discover, Design, and Make. Help students develop their entrepreneurial mindset by implementing some of the activities below and watch them engage deeper in their learning and apply their understanding to solve problems and create value.

Considerations for implementing a CURE-E in STEM courses

For students to experience an authentic entrepreneurial experience, they need a customer. The customer can be directly connected to the research or loosely connected. 

For example, a more closely connected customer to the research could be a biology class that is researching water borne parasites and the customer that benefits from the research is someone living in an underdeveloped country with limited potable water infrastructure, or the same biology class that is researching parasites could more loosely define their customer as being a citizen scientist that with the right portable and inexpensive equipment could provide valuable data on parasite populations. In the first example, the research results could directly benefit the customer whereas in the latter example the process of performing the research could become a product that benefits a customer.

It is helpful if the instructor can be flexible with the interpretation of the customer and the application of their research goals. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What open-ended questions in your research can students pursue for solutions or applications?

  • What opportunities are there for students to interview experts related to the research or find a customer for which the research could solve a problem or resolve a need?

  • Where can students look for applications of the research?

  • Are there questions or prompts that can direct and focus student questions and investigations?

  • Working in teams of three to five is really important for developing entrepreneurial methods and mindset.