Many executives, seized by the absurdity of their work, dream of a completely different job in search of more meaning. Often, they have joined a nice company with a nice job to finally achieve their goal. Unfortunately, they end up being disappointed with what they find. They realize that their work is increasingly being reduced to filling out Excellent charts to report on their own performance and even that of others.
Everybody grit their teeth and feel happy to be well paid and to have a job in a context of high unemployment. They can take advantage of some of the benefits that are offered by their company. They look forward to the holidays and they live again as soon as they are outside the company. They play sports, get involved in associations and humanitarian causes. It’s as if life is shunning the big organizations and leaving only deadly places behind.
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The 20th century economic model on which its success was built, namely mass production, has come to an end. What once carried it :
- Notion of family responsibility
- Notion of effort
- Notion of respect for social codes
have changed profoundly since then because of a society that has become more individualized.
The need to belong has been replaced by the search for meaning
People no longer define themselves by the organization to which they belong. Individual mental models have evolved to adapt to a world that is seeking autonomy.
Entrepreneurship is the key. It differs from other economic actors because they transform their environment. How do they manage to do so ?
It’s because it challenges beliefs that we took for granted. For example, Henry Ford’s idea of offering a car for everyone was at first ridiculous. He had even been violently attacked, at the time, by the press. Nowadays, Airbnb, offers us the possibility of welcoming an almost perfect stranger in our home at night without shocking anyone.
Entrepreneurs are changing the way we see the world. They change the set of beliefs, assumptions and values we hold about ourselves and determine how we act.
The Entrepreneurial Mental Model – 5 models
The depiction of the visionary superhero for entrepreneurs is quite common in popular imagery. The entrepreneur would be able, by making a big gamble, to transform an entire industry. However, this representation of the entrepreneur is not a universal truth but rather a mental model.
In the economic field, the mental model of the entrepreneur manages to make us accept things that were unimaginable at first.
- BlaBlacar makes us think it’s okay to travel in a stranger’s car…
- Airbnb makes us find it normal to welcome a complete stranger in our home.
- Facebook makes us expose all the details of our private life in the public square.
The specificity of entrepreneurs is to succeed in questioning and adjusting mental models that seemed to be universal and absolute truths.
An Indo-Indian researcher named Saras Sarasvathi showed 5 mental models of the entrepreneur that allow him to act while keeping in touch with reality.
Mental models formalize a form of daily discipline that makes small, constant efforts lead to big results. It’s a bit like working on your teeth every day. These models have survived over the course of evolution because they give an advantage to those who practice them. So they can act to stay grounded in reality without being trapped by their mental models.
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Here are briefly the 5 mental models of the entrepreneur :
- Start with what you’ve got : You need to start with what you have at hand: your personality, your knowledge and your network to imagine what you can do instead of looking for resources to achieve your goals. You need to determine your goal based on your available resources.
- Acting on an acceptable loss : Instead of acting on a hypothetical expected gain, you must decide on the basis of an acceptable loss that is within your control. From then on, you will stay grounded in reality and act in small steps to control the risk. You can ask yourself, “If I do this, what do I lose ?“. You have to start with small steps and turn them into big ones. That way you will reduce the risks and give yourself more chances to succeed. You will progress more easily by getting around your mental models that block your action.
- Gets commitments : You need to convince more and more people to commit to your project to create your market. These people will in turn participate in the construction of the new mental model that you will have brought with you.
- Takes advantage of surprises : You must, without consciously trying to avoid them, take advantage of surprises and perceive the chance you have to seize opportunities.
- Create the context : You must regain the ability to act on your environment. Take an interest in the driving factors of the situation and you will find a way to really act.
First Entrepreneurial Mental Model : Start with what you have
The entrepreneur is rarely guided by a vision that is described in advance. Drawing on his available resources rather than on his dream, he immediately sets himself in action based on concrete elements over which he has total control.
This model invites you to invoke what can be instead of what should be. The “should be” is a moral expectation or even an ideal, while the “maybe” means you are in action.
In the first case all possibilities are reduced to either success or failure, whereas in the second case, by thinking “sufficient” you will have at your disposal a range of possibilities.
In this last approach, a multitude of possible things make failure impossible since you will inevitably succeed in doing something, however modest.
Second Entrepreneurial Mental Model : Acts in Acceptable Losses
Instead of thinking about the expected gain, the entrepreneur thinks first of all about what he can lose if things go wrong :
- I’m taking this action, and it’s okay if it doesn’t work out
- I’ve lost a little time and maybe even a little money, but at a level that doesn’t put at risk
A cautious approach that is not due to a lack of means. It is all the interest to start small and end up big as theorized by Paul Graham founder of Y Combinator, the famous Silicon Valley incubator that launched Twitter and Airbnb.
It is a perfectly rational approach to act at an acceptable loss. The higher the degree of uncertainty, the lower the capacity to produce future results.
From the moment you act on the basis of what you can lose, you will transcend fear and ambition :
- You control the risk you take
- You release your feasible action
As with the first mental model, you bring the action back to yourself rather than to others and to now rather than later.
Third Entrepreneurial Mental Model : Gets Commitments
Commitment is a basic process for the contractor. Gradually, he gives substance to his project by involving a growing number of stakeholders. It is above all a social process where commitment is the basis.
Speaking of commitment, it is not a question of decreeing it but rather of the desire to be part of the adventure. It is the model of social contagion that leads to doing great things.
Many ideas for innovation, practice and even revolution were born in small groups. Through a mechanism of contagion and over time, commitment grows.
Whoever mobilizes this mental model can better know himself, that is to say, his own individual mental models. So he ends up finding a space to develop. All the value of this principle depends on an ability to act, to build relationships with others and to take part in the “whirlwind of life“.
According to the philosopher and novelist Charles Périn, he defines a friend as someone with whom we really develop “in act” talents that we potentially had “in potential“.
The meeting enables action through the link it creates and the resulting openness, as evidenced by all entrepreneurial adventures
Fourth Entrepreneurial Mental Model : Taking Advantage of Surprises
Whereas in a stable environment, error is a threat, without a dynamic environment, it is a source of progress. If you want to protect yourself too much from surprises, you end up cutting yourself off from reality and the opportunities it can bring you. You can’t conquer new territory if you stay locked up in your fortress.
The contractor takes advantage of surprises, whether good or bad. Nevertheless, we must recognize that it is difficult to give up our sense of protection. Most great inventions and great companies have emerged by surprise.
It is the surprise that in reality upsets our mental models. In doing so, it offers you an opportunity. Moreover, you always have the choice to change your mental models or even to expose them. Very often, we prefer to ignore the surprise and stay in the comfort of our mental models until the next surprise.
You can apply this principle and practice it. So, you will :
- Leave your protection mode, which by excess generates a shutdown and cuts you off from your resources.
- Moving from illusory security to curiosity
- Accessing an exploration mode
- Leaving fear and the disembodied plan to be in life, reality and the moment.
Fifth Entrepreneurial Mental Model : Create Context for Yourself
In general, as soon as a problem arises, most people look for the cause to solve it. While this may seem logical, it doesn’t really work because the problems are too complex and change over time. It is the logic that needs to be reviewed.
You’ll get over the unpleasant feeling of having to run very fast and finally stay put. You are the creator of your environment and not the taker. By accepting the complexity of the situation, you will play the game of context in order to be able to act by reconnecting with simplicity and naturalness.
Don’t think the world but think the world
You must beware of the pitfalls of expertise and objectivity. Instead, you need to develop your attention to mental models and play with them.
To go further…
Philippe Silberzahn et Béatrice Rousset In : Stratégie Modèle Mental : Cracker enfin le code des organisations pour les remettre en mouvement [Online] Paper and digital book format available in French only on : < https://amzn.to/2wnfkB7 >