Enterprise is More than Entrepreneurship

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One of the things that bugs me (especially when I catch myself doing it) is when we use enterprise and entrepreneurship as if they were almost the same thing.

For me, ‘enterprise’ describes a set of behaviours that are defined at the level of the individual. For example, if Richard Branson were to set up another major record label and make a few quid – by his standards that would not be very enterprising. Stuff he has done before – to great success – so where’s the enterprise? However for him to get into space travel, railways, ballooning, cosmetics etc is enterprising because they are new challenges.

So enterprise is a relative concept defined by the individual and where they are starting from. If we want to encourage more ‘enterprise’ especially in areas of deprivation with few enterprising role models we have to be prepared to accept wider definitions of enterprise. We have to acknowledge the concept of introducing people to an enterprise journey that may take years to get close to ‘starting a business’ or that may head in a completely different direction.

So a young person in South Leeds who attends a training course to qualify as a referee is ‘enterprising’. The provision of the referee training course has encouraged enterprise. If we are canny, once we have engaged that individual in their enterprising journey we can then help them to plot the next steps – to help keep them moving forward. Enterprising people are making positive things happen.

By defining enterprise too narrowly as ‘starting a business’ or ‘becoming self employed’ we are often encouraging people to start their enterprise journey at a point that is already a very long way down the tracks. This significantly increases the chances of failure and loss of engagement.

To avoid this trap we need to be very careful in the way we specify, commission, deliver and evaluate the impact of ‘enterprise growth’ projects.

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