The New Entrepreneurial Leader: Developing Leaders Who Shape Social and Economic Opportunity

The New Entrepreneurial Leader: Developing Leaders Who Shape Social and Economic Opportunity

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by Danna Greenberg, Kate McKone-Sweet, H. James Wilson

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In years past, the keywords for leaders were confidence, single-minded purpose, and strategic planning. But today’s vastly complex, globalized, and fast-evolving world requires a different kind of leadership. This game-changing book details a new approach—entrepreneurial leadership—developed at Babson College, the number-one school for


In years past, the keywords for leaders were confidence, single-minded purpose, and strategic planning. But today’s vastly complex, globalized, and fast-evolving world requires a different kind of leadership. This game-changing book details a new approach—entrepreneurial leadership—developed at Babson College, the number-one school for entrepreneurship in the world.

Entrepreneurial leadership is inspired by, but is separate from, entrepreneurship. It is a leadership approach that can be applied in any organizational situation, not just start-ups. Based on two years of extensive research, it embraces three principles that add up to nothing less than a fundamentally new worldview of business and a new logic of decision making.

The authors discovered that rapid change and increasing uncertainty require leaders to be “cognitively ambidextrous,” able to shift between traditional “prediction logic” (choosing actions based on analysis of known trends) and “creation logic” (taking action despite considerable unknowns). Guiding this different way of thinking and acting is a different worldview of business and society, where simultaneous creation of social, environmental, and economic value is the order of the day. Entrepreneurial leaders also leverage their understanding of themselves and their social context to guide effective action.

Praise for The New Entrepreneurial Leader

“The Babson team cracked the code on global entrepreneurial leadership for the 21st century. Their three principles—cognitive ambidexterity, responsibility and sustainability, and self- and social awareness—are the bedrock for winning on the competitive global playing field of tomorrow. A conceptually sound and very practical guidebook for leadership success.”
—Noel Tichy, Professor and Director, Global Citizenship Initiative, University of Michigan, and coauthor of Judgment (with Warren Bennis)

“Helps us understand the imperative for developing leaders who create both economic and social value. Importantly, this book offers a blueprint for how educators across the curriculum can prepare students to have the vision and ability required to achieve integrated value.”
—Nancy McGaw, Deputy Director, Business and Society Program, Aspen Institute

“Precisely what our turbulent and uncertain environment requires: a new leader with good self-knowledge and passion, able to reconcile the apparent contradictions (in the yin-and-yang tradition of the Chinese) brought by complexity. The model will be a source of inspiration, and action, for all those concerned about leadership today.”
—Henri-Claude de Bettignies, Emeritus Professor of Leadership and Responsibility, INSEAD, and Emeritus Professor of Global Responsible Leadership, CEIBS

“Working with Babson College, we’ve seen how its entrepreneurial approach to management education can unlock the growth and job-creation potential of small businesses across the United States. The New Entrepreneurial Leader is a must-read for anyone who is interested in positioning American students and businesses owners as the cornerstones of this country’s economic recovery.”
—Dina Powell, Global Head of Corporate Engagement and President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, Goldman Sachs Group

“As business schools reconsider their point of arrival and their future destinations, The New Entrepreneurial Leader provides a vocabulary and conceptual road map for those institutions that consider entrepreneurship and innovation as the way forward. The book both provides a toolbox and shows the power of a core focus on entrepreneurship in developing a distinctive educational program that has implications for all business schools.”
—Rakesh Khurana, Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Harvard Business School, and author of From Higher Aims to Hired Hands

“This book is an exemplar of the new wave of thinking about how to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders, and managers for the 21st century. The discussion is framed by tractable concepts and is grounded in practical application. You will gain a valuable perspective on what matters and how to deliver transformational learning to students.”
—Robert F. Bruner, Dean and Charles C. Abbott Professor of Business Administration, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia, and author of Deals from Hell

“In a world overwhelmed with problems, we desperately need more entrepreneurial problem solvers—whether that’s young people starting companies from scratch or change agents inside big companies launching breakthrough initiatives. This remarkable book showcases the newest thinking from Babson College, one of the world’s most-admired centers of entrepreneurial education, about two timeless questions: what makes entrepreneurs special, and what are the most effective ways to teach aspiring entrepreneurs to succeed? The best education doesn’t just tell you what you need to know; it changes how you think. This powerful book does just that.”
—William C. Taylor, cofounder and Founding Editor, Fast Company, and author of Practically Radical

“In The New Entrepreneurial Leader, Babson extends its own leadership in management education. Indeed, this book effectively argues that 21st-century management requires entrepreneurial leadership. Larger companies should require this book for every executive.”
—Stephen Spinelli, President, Philadelphia University, and cofounder, Jiffy Lube International

“More than thirty years ago, Babson College was the first institution to teach entrepreneurship as a discipline, and once again, with the publication of The Entrepreneurial Leader, Babson has demonstrated that it is an innovator in management education. This is a thought-provoking book that provides very practical insights on ways to teach future entrepreneurs how to think and act more critically and analytically, strive for greater self- and social awareness, and achieve outstanding results.”
—William D. Green, Chairman, Accenture

“This book provides a vision for developing leaders who aspire to create social, environmental, and economic value simultaneously. It offers practical advice on how to transform management education to realize this vision.”
—Liz C. Maw, Executive Director, NetImpact

“This is a book that was long overdue...the chapters that discuss the challenges of defining metrics for CSR and the difficulty of linking CSR to corporate social performance (CSP) have the potential to impact the content of our business curriculum.”
—Dr. Norean Sharpe, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University

“Reinvention is essential and must be done with guts and in a vigorous manner. In The New Entrepreneurial Leader, you will find a viable approach to reinvent management education. This book is a must-read for all who run, teach in, or plan to attend a business school.”
—Kevin C. Desouza, Associate Professor and Director, Institute for Innovation in Information Management, University of Washington, and author of Intrapreneurship

“This book builds on Babson's thirty years of pioneering researching and teaching entrepreneurship. It challenges conventional business education by arguing convincingly that the entrepreneurial mindset is key to success in our incredibly complex world—not just for entrepreneurs but also for managers, whether they operate in businesses or nonprofit organizations, in highly advanced or in emerging economies. It is a must-buy book.”
—Guy Pfeffermann, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Global Business School Network

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
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Bk Business Series
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New Edition
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6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

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The New Entrepreneurial Leader

Developing Leaders Who Shape Social and Economic Opportunity
By Danna Greenberg Kate McKone-Sweet H. James Wilson

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2001 Babson College
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60509-344-4


Introduction Entrepreneurial Leadership: Shaping Social and Economic Opportunity....................1
PART I A New Way of Thinking and Acting: Developing Cognitive Ambidexterity....................23
CHAPTER 1 Cognitive Ambidexterity: The Underlying Mental Model of the Entrepreneurial Leader Heidi Neck....................24
CHAPTER 2 Creation Logic in Innovation: From Action Learning to Expertise Sebastian K. Fixson and Jay Rao....................43
CHAPTER 3 Prediction Logic: Analytics for Entrepreneurial Thinking Tom Davenport and Julian Lange....................62
PART II A New Worldview: Social, Environmental, and Economic Responsibility and Sustainability....................77
CHAPTER 4 SEERS: Defining Social, Environmental, and Economic Responsibility and Sustainability....................78
CHAPTER 5 Beyond Green: Encouraging Students to Create a Simultaneity of Positive SEERS Outcomes Toni Lester and Vikki L. Rodgers....................94
CHAPTER 6 Sustainability Metrics: Has the Time Arrived for Accountants to Embrace SEERS Reporting? Janice Bell, Virginia Soybel, and Robert Turner....................113
CHAPTER 7 The Financial Challenge: Reconciling Social and Environmental Value with Shareholder Value Richard Bliss....................135
PART III Self- and Social Awareness to Guide Action....................163
CHAPTER 8 Who Am I? Learning from and Leveraging Self-Awareness James Hunt, Nan S. Langowitz, Keith Rollag, and Karen Hebert-Maccaro....................164
CHAPTER 9 What Is the Context? Fostering Entrepreneurial Leaders' Social Awareness Stephen Deets and Lisa DiCarlo....................184
CHAPTER 10 Whom Do I Know? Building and Engaging Social Networks Using Social Media Technology Salvatore Parise and PJ Guinan....................202
PART IV Management Educators as Entrepreneurial Leaders....................217
CHAPTER 11 A New Pedagogy for Teaching "Doing": Preparing Entrepreneurial Leaders for Values-Driven Action....................218
CHAPTER 12 Curriculum-Wide Change: Leading Initiatives to Develop Entrepreneurial Leaders....................227
About the Authors and Babson Faculty Contributors....................259

Chapter One

Cognitive Ambidexterity: The Underlying Mental Model of the Entrepreneurial Leader

Heidi Neck

In 2003 Jim Poss was walking down a Boston street when he noticed a trash vehicle in action. The truck was idling at a pickup point, blocking traffic, smoke pouring out of its exhaust, and litter was still prevalent on the street. There has to be a better way, he thought to himself. In investigating the problem, Poss learned that garbage trucks consume more than 1 billion gallons of fuel in the United States alone. The vehicles average only 2.8 miles per gallon, and they are among the most expensive vehicles to operate (BigBelly Solar 2010). In the early 2000s, municipalities and waste collection services were considering more-fuel-efficient vehicles and better collection routes to reduce their overall costs and environmental footprint. Poss was not convinced that this was the right approach.

Through interactions with diverse stakeholders, he turned the problem upside down. He considered that the answer might not be about developing a more efficient collection process but about reducing the need for frequent trash collection. As he considered this solution, he discovered multiple benefits: if trash receptacles held more trash, they would not need to be emptied so often; if trash did not need to be collected so often, collection costs and associated pollution would be reduced; and if receptacles did not overflow, there would be less litter on the streets. There were many advantages to this approach.

By applying the solar technology he used at work, Poss envisioned how a new machine might better manage trash. His initial concept of a solar-powered trash compactor was dismissed in favor of other ideas for environmentally friendly inventions, including a machine that would generate electricity from the movement of the ocean. Nonetheless the problem and the potential solutions continued to occupy his mind. Poss said, "I took pictures of trash cans on my honeymoon" (Simpson 2007).

He began to involve others, choosing a team based on who he knew might be interested within his social network. "We are motivated in part because we care about the environment and in part because we know this can be financially successful" (Xing 2007). Poss and his assembled team experimented with a variety of options and finally returned to the solar-powered trash receptacle—the BigBelly—an innovation that provides clear solutions to the problems he noted on the city street that day. The current version can hold up to five times more trash than traditional receptacles. As a result, it dramatically decreases the frequency of trash pickup and cuts fuel use and trash truck emissions by up to 80 percent.

Entrepreneurial leaders such as Jim Poss need the skills and the knowledge to define the world rather than be defined by it. To achieve this, entrepreneurial leaders must identify, assess, and shape opportunities in a variety of contexts—ranging from the predictable to the unknowable. They use creative and innovative approaches to create value for stakeholders and society. They create opportunities using a method of observing, acting, reflecting, and learning that is a constant and ongoing process. This is the method Poss used when observing a waste collection problem, pondering new technology-based solutions, reflecting on the possibilities, and creating the BigBelly solution.

In this chapter we introduce the way of thinking and acting that underlies entrepreneurial leadership: cognitive ambidexterity. Cognitive ambidexterity presumes two different approaches to thought and action: prediction logic and creation logic. To be an effective entrepreneurial leader, one must be skilled in both prediction and creation logics and able to cycle between them. It was through the use of both prediction and creation logics that Poss was able to create economic and environmental value; he literally turned garbage into an opportunity.

This chapter explains cognitive ambidexterity in more detail and provides examples of how to develop entrepreneurial leaders who engage cognitive ambidexterity. To do this, however, management education must move beyond teaching entrepreneurial leaders what to think to teaching them how to think.

Cognitive Ambidexterity: Linking Prediction and Creation Approaches

Entrepreneurial leadership requires cognitive ambidexterity—a way of thinking and acting that is characterized by switching flexibly back and forth between prediction and creation approaches. The prediction approach, which is based on analysis using existing information, works best under conditions of certainty and low levels of perceived uncertainty. Creation, on the other hand, involves taking action to generate data that did not exist previously or that are inaccessible. It is most effective in environments characterized by extreme uncertainty or even unknowability.

In some instances prediction and creation logics are portrayed as incompatible methods of thought and action. In theory and in practice, this distinction is artificial. Through conscious effort, one way of thinking can be used to inform and progress the other way of thinking, making the approaches complementary. Moreover, by engaging prediction and creation approaches, entrepreneurial leaders are able to create greater value than if they had tried only one of these approaches.

Consider the example of Yvon Chouinard, who founded the outdoor apparel company Patagonia in 1974. When asked how he knows if he's making the right move, he responded, "If you study something to death, if you wait for the customer to tell you what he wants, you're going to be too late, especially for an entrepreneurial company. That comes from Henry Ford: Customers didn't want a Model T, they wanted a faster horse" (Wang 2010, 23). Chouinard takes action first (the creation approach) and uses data from his actions and experiments to make decisions (the prediction approach). His cognitive ambidexterity is producing impressive results. Patagonia is still a private company, 100 percent owned by Chouinard, with approximately 1,300 employees and $315 million in sales for 2009. In addition, Patagonia continues to receive numerous awards for its emphasis on social and environmental responsibility and sustainability (Wang 2010).

Framing Cognitive Ambidexterity for Entrepreneurial Leaders

To understand the abstract concept of cognitive ambidexterity, we developed an exercise that enables entrepreneurial leaders to experience the difference between the prediction and creation ways of thinking. The exercise we describe is based on Sarasvathy's (2008) seminal work on effectuation, where the contrasting metaphors of a quilt and a jigsaw puzzle expose the differences between effectual and causal thinking, which are akin to creation and prediction logics (see exhibit 1.1).

This exercise can be used at the beginning of any course that discusses entrepreneurial leadership. At the start of the course, students are least comfortable with one another, the professor, and the course content. In this way course participants simulate the experience of being in an unknowable world. The exercise begins as the professor asks students to count off into groups of six. The professor tells students that this is a time-limited competition. Groups are instructed to go to their assigned table, which has the directions.

At each table participants read the instructions, which indicate that their task is to complete a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle as quickly as possible. While the initial setup may be a little chaotic, order quickly appears at each table, as most students have experience doing jigsaw puzzles. Group members use their experience as they begin to separate edges from center pieces, search for corners, and use the picture on the box to begin assembling the puzzle.

After five to 10 minutes, the professor announces that one volunteer is needed from each group. The volunteers leave the puzzle area and are brought to a large, empty room. In one corner of the room are hundreds of pieces of fabric of different colors, textures, and sizes. The group of volunteers are again confused and concerned. The instructor tells them that each student will now become a quilt leader responsible for designing a quilt that will be judged. Quilt leaders are told that they don't need to sew; they can simply place fabric on the ground and start designing the quilt. They begin the process by choosing six pieces of fabric, selecting a space in the room to create the quilt, and laying their pieces down. The quilt leaders are also told that over the next 45 minutes, other volunteers will be brought into the room and will be invited to join in designing quilts.

The quilt leaders get to work, and in five minutes six more volunteers join the quilt-making room. These volunteers are told to select six pieces of fabric and join any team they want. Every five minutes a new group of volunteers leave the puzzle-making area and enter the quilt-making room. As more people join the effort, some quilts grow larger or become more creative. Soon the entire class moves from putting together puzzles to designing quilts. Though participants don't yet realize it, they have just experienced the prediction and creation logics of cognitive ambidexterity.

The Jigsaw Puzzle as Prediction Logic

Assembling a jigsaw puzzle is analogous to prediction logic within cognitive ambidexterity. The puzzle box itself offers a number of known variables, including the number of pieces inside and a picture of the solved puzzle, both of which can be used to reduce uncertainty around the level of difficulty and potential time to completion. The process begins by establishing the goal: complete the puzzle. The second step is to acquire resources to achieve that goal: open the box and get the puzzle pieces. The third step is to analyze everyone's experience with puzzle building and to design a process for completing the puzzle. This might involve separating pieces by color, doing the edges first, and so on. The fourth step involves measuring progress and making adjustments by reviewing the box cover and revising the plan. Finally, the project is complete when all the pieces are connected to match the picture on the box. Participants start with a clear goal and follow a linear process to completion.

Prediction logic, which is vividly illustrated by the experience of assembling a jigsaw puzzle, is the established analytical approach taught by most management educators. The concepts and the teaching methods that underlie this approach provide students with the tools, frameworks, and processes for analyzing the causes and predicting the effects of a given event or action. Through this approach management students learn how to predict the outcome of actions using observation, experience, analysis, and reasoning. They learn that through rigorous analysis of the causes and the effects of a situation, they can make decisions that yield the intended results.

The six principles that guide the use of a prediction approach are shown in the following sidebar. Like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, a prediction approach is applicable in organizational situations in which goals are predetermined, issues are clear, and data are reliable and available. In these circumstances entrepreneurial leaders focus on assessing the situation, defining the problems and the opportunities, diagnosing the problem, evaluating alternative actions using established frameworks and tools, and identifying the best solution or plan to reach established goals. This sequential process of assess, define, diagnose, design, and act assumes that we can predict the future based on past experiences.

In management education prediction logic has been the dominant paradigm for teaching everything from accounting to organizational behavior to entrepreneurship. To develop their cognitive ambidexterity, entrepreneurial leaders will still need to be taught the prediction approach. They need to learn established tools and frameworks for following a rigorous, analytical decision-making process.

Yet the ambiguity of today's business environment means that a prediction approach to leadership is not enough. In complex situations where cause-and-effect relationships are unknown or uncertain and where information is ambiguous, a prediction approach must be complemented by the creation approach based in action, discovery, and shaping opportunities. Entrepreneurial leaders use the creation approach to learn about a situation by acting and then observing and analyzing the outcomes of their actions.

The Quilt as Creation Logic

The creation approach illustrated by this experiential exercise is analogous to a form of quilt-making called crazy quilting. Crazy quilting is one of the oldest forms of American patchwork quilting and is defined by combining irregular patches of fabric with little or no regard to pattern or design. This form of quilt-making became popular among Victorian women in the late 1800s. The design, shape, and color of the quilt depended not only on the knowledge and the experience of the quilters but also on the amount and the type of fabric and the creativity they brought to the project.

The quilt-making portion of the exercise highlights the creation component of cognitive ambidexterity. Participants enter the quilt-making room with little information and few resources (six pieces of fabric). They employ a means-focused process in which they begin designing the quilt based on the materials they have. This is very different from creating a quilt design and then going to find the materials that fit it (a prediction-oriented process).

As other participants enter the room, they self-select to join a quilt leader. How they choose a quilt-making team varies. Some participants are attracted by a quilt leader's design and feel they have something to offer. For instance, some may be drawn to a quilt that is unconventional. Other participants connect to those who fit with their knowledge of what a quilt is supposed to be. Still others see that some teams do not have many people, so they join out of perceived need. Regardless of the reason why, each volunteer brings additional resources (fabric), and the quilt design continues to emerge. Sometimes new fabric brought to the team may force the team to go in a different direction. For example, a team may have an emerging design based on hues of blue, and then someone joins the team with red, orange, and green plaid pieces. Should the team accept the resources and go with a different design? The creation approach would argue affirmatively because with each additional set of resources the pool of possibilities expands.


Excerpted from The New Entrepreneurial Leader by Danna Greenberg Kate McKone-Sweet H. James Wilson Copyright © 2001 by Babson College. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Danna Greenberg is Associate Professor of Management at Babson College, where she holds the Mandell Family Term Chair. She has published more than 30 articles in journals such as Journal of Management and Administrative Science Quarterly.

Kate McKone-Sweet is Associate Professor of Operations Management at Babson College and Chair of the Technology, Operations, and Information Management Division. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Journal of Operations Management and Production Operations Management.

H. James Wilson is a senior researcher and writer at Babson Executive Education. His research appears regularly on Harvard Business Review Online. He is co-author of What’s the Big Idea? Creating and Capitalizing on the Best New Management Thinking (Harvard Business Press).

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