Why “Entrepreneurial Problem Solving” instead of “Entrepreneurship”

Why do I call my classEntrepreneurial Problem Solving” or sometimes “Entrepreneurial Thinking and Behavior” instead of “Entrepreneurship”?

Entrepreneurship means starting a company. It’s a subset of things you can do entrepreneurially.

  • Solving a problem entrepreneurially means solving it without the resources at hand you need to finish it.
  • Solving a problem non-entrepreneurially means you have the resources at hand to solve it.

If Johnson & Johnson wants to introduce a new consumer product, it has all the resources it needs to research the market, develop the product, distribute the product, and so on.

If someone has an idea for a new product, they put the idea into the machine and either the machine decides it won’t work or it brings it to market. People put down bureaucracies, but they do their jobs well. It’s tough to beat Johnson & Johnson on its home turf.

When you want to solve a problem outside a bureaucracy, that the bureaucracy wasn’t built for, or independently of any structure, you generally have to find and assemble the resources. Most people don’t know how or want to do so, seeing the situation as risky.

That’s when a problem is entrepreneurial. That’s where my classes shine. Examples include:

  • Starting a new company to solve a problem in a market with a new product or service
  • Proposing a project within a company to enter a new market
  • Solving a community problem
  • Getting yourself more responsibilities or a promotion
  • Finding a job
  • Creating art when you aren’t yet an established artist
  • Creating an event for the first time

and so on.

Almost always the most effective solution involves finding people with resources, developing relationships with them, then creating deals with them, and solving the problem together as a team, mutually providing resources.

In my experience, creating these mutually beneficial relationships based on common interests is some of the most fun in life. You connect based on empathy and mutual understanding.

The most important skills for entrepreneurial problem solving are responsibility, initiative, self-awareness, making people feel comfortable sharing vulnerabilities, and creating deals together, which I teach. You can’t learn these things from books, only through challenging practice. As a side effect, you tend to improve all the relationships and live more passionately. You often make money in the process. I don’t know many other courses that teach these life skills. Most just teach facts and information.

Professor of NYU
Joshua Spodek co-founded and led several ventures. He coaches and teaches leadership, entrepreneurship, sales, and related skills at Columbia Business School and NYU using experiential, project-based learning. He holds five Ivy League degrees, including an Astrophysics PhD and an MBA, and studied under a Nobel Laureate. He helped build an X-ray satellite for the European Space Agency and NASA, and holds six patents. His current passion is developing methods to master business's soft skills, even for geeks like him.
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