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Entrepreneurial Strategy: how to navigate the new pandemic and digital normal
Entrepreneurship arises from the recognition of an explicit or hidden problem, often from exogenous shocks. But an entrepreneurial mindset is not enough: it needs an overall strategy, a framework and the tools to navigate this new pandemic and digital normal. In the end, it is a process based on a scientific and experimental approach.
Antonio Ghezzi, Associate Professor of Strategy & Marketing, Hi-tech Startups and Digital Business Innovation
School of Management Politecnico di Milano
Entrepreneurship is commonly defined as a constant search for new business opportunities.
What’s an opportunity? Opportunities can arise when exogenous shocks reveal competitive imperfections which leave some space open for intervention and action. They might also happen when resources and competencies, owned by you or some else, appear or acquire a new value (such as when they are recombined to deliver a new solution or when old problems are resolved in new ways). Sometimes, opportunities are created by visionary minds who challenge common assumptions or who see a light in the darkness.
How do you take advantage of an opportunity once it is discovered or created?
Taking advantage of an opportunity involves creating new organisations. These may be traditional new ventures or more highly innovative start-ups, which build viable business models around the business opportunities. Entrepreneurs must formulate an entrepreneurial strategy, by: defining their vision, mission and purpose; creatively analysing industries, looking within and outside traditional market boundaries using a Blue Ocean Strategy or using a lean start approach by designing innovative business models and validating them on the market by acquiring customer feedback through experimentation.
These are the main entrepreneurial steps, which make it a restless force that challenges and creates traditional industries, and constitutes the major growth thrust in mature economies like Italy’s.
What is the relationship between today’s mega trends and exogenous conditions and entrepreneurship? How do the “new normal”, born of a fast-spreading pandemic and a growing digitalisation trend, affect entrepreneurial action? And can entrepreneurial action help overcome current threats?
Entrepreneurship is born and naturally thrives in uncertain market conditions and turbulence. New ventures and start-ups either emerge from discontinuities or create them, through disruptive initiatives and business models. You need an entrepreneurial mindset when sailing troubled waters.
Entrepreneurship is about turning threats into opportunities. As a common saying goes, in entrepreneurship everything starts with “pain” which is the recognition of an explicit or hidden problem, that the entrepreneurial team strives to solve in an original and effective or efficient way. This is something we clearly experienced when investigating start-up responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Not only did several start-ups perform interesting pivots of their business models to restore viability, but others were created to help overcome the crisis.
Entrepreneurship constantly looks to design and bundle new tools into compelling value propositions that can rapidly scale. This is the case with digital technologies, which display a strategic and entrepreneurial side beyond their technological dimension and should be seen as enablers for new products, services, business models and whole industries.
Embracing an entrepreneurial mindset to catalyse entrepreneurial action and make it practical within an overall entrepreneurial strategy provides the framework and tools to navigate the new pandemic and digital normal. This applies to start-ups and innovative projects inside well-established organisations, where “intrapreneurial” endeavours are needed for business renewal.
At Politecnico di Milano’s School of Management, our close ties with the Italian and international startup ecosystem allow us to design theoretically sound as well as practice-oriented research, and convey its main takeaways into an enriching and action-learning teaching experience.
This theory-teaching-practice virtuous loop allowed us to address a key point often puzzling would-be entrepreneurs: entrepreneurship can be taught and learnt.
Entrepreneurship is not only about individual creativity and passion: it’s a process based on and sustained by an experimental and quasi-scientific approach that can be framed and transferred.
Will learning this process result in a bulletproof recipe for undisputable success? For sure it won’t. But whenever going through the famous – or better, infamous – startup’s Valley of Death, with failure rates as high as 90%, be knowledgeable of the right models and approaches will definitely come in handy.