From dreamer to doer, how digital learning boosts the entrepreneurial mindset

From dreamer to doer, how digital learning boosts the entrepreneurial mindset
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Because of the Mark Zuckerberg and Drew Houston archetypes we’ve all come to know and admire, millennials are often thought of as the generation of entrepreneurs. But, you’d be surprised to hear that millennials as a whole are, in fact, more risk-averse than previous generations. The Kauffman Foundation’s latest study of entrepreneurship found that the rate of new start-ups is higher today than 10 or 20 years ago for every major age group — except those between 20 and 34 years of age, a.k.a. millennials.

The inherently unpredictable nature of launching a new enterprise, whether for-profit or non-profit, combined with financial obstacles like student debt and the rocky economy that millennials inherited are all contributing to a growing hesitation to pursue the path of entrepreneurship.

However, the risk aversion that holds millennials back from becoming entrepreneurs doesn’t mean millennials are averse to the spirit of entrepreneurship. In fact, it is an attitude, mindset and career path to which many aspire. According to a survey by EIG and EY, 72 percent of millennials think that startups are “essential for new innovation and jobs.”

So, if you are part of the generation that embraces the entrepreneurial spirit in concept, but have qualms about it in practice, how can you foster and grow the entrepreneurial mind and skillset, while mitigating risk?

A great place to start honing both your entrepreneurial outlook and ability is at the origin of any career or professional success – learning. Don’t let anyone tell you that entrepreneurs are born. Entrepreneurship can be learned and refined. From biographies of successful entrepreneurs and workshops run by networking organizations like, to podcasts and TED Talks given by entrepreneurs you admire, to articles detailing tips and tricks – there are plenty of resources available to ‘learn’ your way to entrepreneurship.

You can also turn to online courses in entrepreneurship and innovation. Online courses not only teach the skills and thinking needed to embrace your inner-entrepreneur, but also provide a low-risk environment to help you welcome new opportunities and knowledge. In this way, you can embrace innovation and expand your mind, while still just dipping a toe into those, at times uncertain, entrepreneurial waters.

Since online courses require little to no financial investment and allow you to learn from any location, eliminating the need to move or travel – these resources can help you unlock your potential as an entrepreneur without taking on the risks, such as time and money to value, associated with more traditional approaches to education.

Experimenting with new digital learning approaches can help shape your innovative outlook and provide you with the key, in-demand skills and knowledge needed not only to begin a successful entrepreneurial journey, but also to help you remain relevant and successful throughout your career.

Entrepreneurial learning = digital learning

Digital learning meets the demands of the current or aspiring entrepreneur through three main characteristics:

  • Responsiveness: Faster times call for adaptive learning—in other words, learning that is responsive to the fickle demands of today’s job and business environment. If traditional industries are being disrupted by fast-moving technology, then the material learners use to help shape their next big idea needs to not only reflect the skills needed today, but also what will be needed tomorrow. For example, the position of data scientist didn’t even exist a decade ago. Today, it tops almost every “best jobs” list. Online resources, like blogs and podcasts, have the level or responsiveness required to keep up with this constant innovation and technological development. Within days (or hours!) online content can be updated, edited and digested, meaning that the knowledge to inform your next business decision is directly at your fingertips.
  • Flexibility: Digital learning provides greater flexibility. For example, with online courses, you can stack programs and credentials in the way that’s best for you and your goals. You learn what you want, when you want, and where you want. Learning should depend on your motivation and drive, and not whether you have the luxury of setting aside your life for a few years and paying a hefty tuition. Want to become a growth hacker who can engineer your company’s path to scale? Combine a range of marketing courses with courses in data analytics and Python. Want to brush up on your technical skills while becoming a well-rounded employee? Take a course in data analytics and another on team communication skills—one of the most in-demand skills sought by employers.
  • Empowerment: Digital learning allows you to take control of your own learning, much like how an entrepreneur takes hold of their career path or business. You can choose to take courses, download eBooks, attend webinars, participate in Twitter chats… the list goes on, but the choice is yours when it comes to the content you access and the information that you take into consideration as you shape your business and career.

In this way, digital learning is itself an entrepreneurial response to supplement what traditional learning sometimes can’t provide.

As a serial entrepreneur, I can certainly sympathize with the idea that creating your own business is, indeed, a very risky business. However, maintaining control over your own continuous learning and development can help mitigate against the inevitable—and sometimes exciting—risks we can encounter on the path to entrepreneurship, all while sharpening the specific skills and attitude that lead to entrepreneurial success.

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