Entrepreneurship is the new innovation

Five years ago the buzzword in the business world was “innovation”; these days, it’s “disruption”. Every year the world tilts and we all scramble to keep up. For several years I’ve been working the in knowledge management and innovation arenas. In studying both, I’ve determined that the next real step in innovation – in evolution – is entrepreneurship.

Why entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurs are the rock stars of today’s business world, but what does entrepreneurship mean and why is it important to innovation? Is it not just another buzzword? I have five key points about why entrepreneurship is the new innovation:

  1. It’s hard to sustain innovation. Any innovation expert will tell you it’s easy to be innovative. It’s much harder to sustain innovation. The thing about entrepreneurship is that to survive, it has to be a sustainable business. Sustainability is what keeps innovation alive.
  2. Innovation doesn’t work in silos. Gils van Wulfen said it best: “You can invent alone but you can’t innovate alone.” Most organisations tend to innovate within their own four walls. You can invent new practices, bring in new ideas, but you can’t innovate on your own. Entrepreneurship brings in external deciders; customers, suppliers, partners.
  3. Entrepreneurship needs innovation to stay alive. Nothing creates more innovation than a customer who demands it from you – that’s part of keeping a business alive. Coming up with new company products, services, and strategies to maintain and grow a business is demanding, but entrepreneurship feeds on innovation and keeps it going.
  4. Entrepreneurship is demand-driven; innovation is internally-driven. Every entrepreneur I know wakes up thinking, “What do I need to do differently today to satisfy my customers/create new business?” It is externally driven. On the other hand, innovation comes from within. Internal forces are strong, but combine them with external entrepreneur demands and they become powerful.
  5. Entrepreneurial spirit can be developed and grown. Innovation can be taught, but some cultures are not naturally innovative. They might bounce for a short while, but often lapse back. We can learn to be entrepreneurs – there is no greater teacher than necessity. More often than not, the trick is to get people to see opportunities and learn how to capitalise on them.

Entrepreneurship is the new innovation – we’re convinced. We interviewed 50 people, including 38 entrepreneurs in one-on-one discussions, and believe that an entrepreneur’s key ability is to create something out of nothing. Isn’t that innovation?

Written by:
Tamiko Sher
Managing Director | Z.A.ZEN Consulting