You’ve probably already been to our website and seen our promotional film Early Birds. Who is it that ensures research finds its way into everyday life? Who injects real value into knowledge? People who think entrepreneurially, who act entrepreneurially. People we need, because they become innovators, they seize new ideas and make them happen, they’re prepared to stick their necks out, and they have no problems dealing with uncertainty – true entrepreneurs!
The world of business is undergoing sweeping change. It’s times like this that topics such as entrepreneurship become particularly important to all of us, so I was delighted when I heard that this edition of the Steinbeis TRANSFER magazine is being dedicated to the topic. Entrepreneurship in the way Schumpeter described it should not be confused with inventiveness. Entrepreneurs don’t invent things, they translate the existing into successful innovations through realignment and an analytical understanding of markets.
The new possibilities opened up to us by digital technology are fuelling disruptive changes to entire markets and business models. As in the past, the first place people turn to – in awe – is Silicon Valley and its “one-stepahead economy” (to loosely translate a term coined by the German economist Ernst Helmstädter: Vorauswirtschaft). Indeed, concepts like Uber and Airbnb are completely novel business models and things like crowdsourcing platforms are fundamentally changing business processes as we speak.
The culture of entrepreneurial thinking and action also needs to be made a higher priority in Germany if we are to shape the changes that are about to hit us. What we need are entrepreneurs on a number of fronts – people who found companies but also people who are already actually employed by companies. We need to think about the kinds of ecosystems that will need to be put in place to convince committed men and women that starting up a company is a good idea in Germany. But we also need to create cultures within companies that allow people to work independently, cultures that foster knowledge, cultures that nurture people’s ability and people’s willingness to spot an opportunity and translate ideas into actions.
Cultures of entrepreneurial thinking and action also require other things: suitable framework conditions such as a startup ecosystem, innovative business cultures, but also – at its core – coherent entrepreneurship education as part of business training. This is because the characteristics of an entrepreneur – strong communication skills, self-confidence, the capacity to innovate, a willingness to take risks, leadership skills, the motivation to achieve great things, creativity, and flexibility – are things that people can learn.
This is something the authors of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) also recommended in their 2015 report on Germany. They stated that training and education still offer the greatest potential when it comes to improving the startup climate, since it is here that there were, and still are, significant shortcomings in Germany compared to the international picture. The authors continued by suggesting that more discussion is required among businesspeople, politicians, within the ministries of education and art, and at trade unions, and this would help make teaching a higher priority than it has been until now in fostering creativity, (entrepreneurial) independence, and personal initiative.
There is still so much to be done when it comes to entrepreneurship. So let’s go for it!
Prof. Dr. Barbara Burkhardt-Reich
Prof. Dr. Barbara Burkhardt-Reich is responsible for the German youth startup contest Jugend gründet. She is also director of the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Business Development at Pforzheim University, which focuses on issues related to schools and business, entrepreneurship education, vocational orientation in schools and educational establishments, women in management, and marketing intelligence/ online-marketing/ marketing communication.
To contact Barbara Burkhardt- Reich, write to: email@example.com