November 30, 2018

Steidle: The future of work is entrepreneurial

Originally published in The Roanoke Times Opinion Section.

Why do so many people not understand the power of entrepreneurship? Perhaps the word “entrepreneurial” gives them hives or they have no idea how the word even applies to them. After all, they are not interested in starting a business so why should they care?

​Here is why: Entrepreneurship is about so much more than starting a business. It is the future of work… but do not take my word for it. The World Economic Forum recently published a report called “The Future of Work.” In an attempt to better understand what employers needed in future employees, they interviewed senior leaders from 371 top global employers, representing 13 million employees in nine sectors across 15 emerging economies, including the United States (World Economic Forum, 2016). The report found the top 10 employer-demanded skills were as follows: 1) complex problem solving, 2) critical thinking, 3) creativity, 4) people management, 5) coordinating with others, 6) emotional intelligence, 7) judgment and decision making, 8) service orientation, 9) negotiation, and 10) cognitive flexibility.

Some may be surprised that the most in-demand competencies consists of what many would call “soft-skills”, but the employers surveyed explained that technical skills were easier to train on the job. Soft and interpersonal skills were much more difficult (WEF, 2016). Interestingly, in study after study, these skills are each individually cited as key entrepreneurial competencies (Naumann, 2017). Employers are, in turn, asking academic institutions to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in students before they are actively applying for jobs.

​I have spent years studying the entrepreneurial mindset, a concept that was introduced to me in 2013 by Gary Schoeniger, the founder of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative and the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs. According to Schoeniger, “Entrepreneurship is more than an academic discipline. It is a mindset; a framework for thinking and acting that can empower anyone to succeed. And, in today’s rapidly changing, highly complex world, the need for entrepreneurial thinkers at all levels of society has never been greater” (Schoeniger, n.d.).

​Similarly, Aoun (2017), in Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, states that “A ‘robot-proof’ education is not concerned solely with filling student minds with high-octane facts. Rather, it calibrates them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or create something valuable to society” (p. xviii).

​The local Community College’s Workforce Development Divisions can be part of the solution. Did you know that Virginia Western Community College’s Workforce Development division offers on-site custom training for employers? The entrepreneurial mindset program is just one of many different types of educational solutions the community college can offer employers.

​One thing is for certain. There is no greater and immediate need than to prepare our workforce for the technological tsunami that is about to hit us. A recent warning from John Chambers, Executive Chair of Cisco, captures the challenge. Chambers called for businesses to change, to “reinvent” themselves to avoid major disruptions in their operations; he warned that the coming disruptions will be brutal and “the majority of companies will not exist in a meaningful way 10 to15 years from now”.– John Chambers (2016), Executive Chairman of Cisco. So, if you have ever wondered why the local community college cares so much about entrepreneurship, now you know. While they understand that a majority of jobs stem from entrepreneurship, it is about much more than starting a business. It is also about the future of work.

Aoun, J. (2017). Robot-proof higher education in the age of artificial intelligence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chambers, J. (2016, March). Cisco’s John Chambers on the digital era. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from
Naumann, C. (2017). Entrepreneurial mindset: A synthetic literature review. Entrepreneurial Busi-Ness and Economics Review, 5(53), 149–172. doi:10.15678/EBER.2017.050308
Schoeniger, G. (n.d.). AASCU Re-imagining the first year project. Retrieved from
World Economic Forum. (2016). The future of jobs employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum.

Samantha Steidle is an Ice House Facilitator, educator, entrepreneurship advocate, and founder of The Innovation Agency from the Roanoke, Virginia area.