This morning we visited Guinness Enterprise Center, a starting point for entrepreneurs who need help launching their businesses. The GEC provides office space, relevant networks, and other resources to help start-ups gain funding and achieve their goals. While I learned a lot from our Q&A session, I was most intrigued by the answer to the following question: What is the one thing that all successful entrepreneurs have in common? The answer was flexibility, a skill that cannot always be taught but rather practiced and developed over time. Flexibility is a highly transferable skill, one that the Irish know all too well. Recalling Dr. Kelley’s explanation of Irish and American education styles, I can see the importance of being flexible in Irish culture. In Ireland, students are given very little direction and are often encouraged to create something unique and different. In contrast, American students follow strict rubrics and guidelines, working to create the same, correct result. What the Irish method suggests is that there is no one correct way to do things. By remaining flexible, you may be able to discover a new solution that is more effective. However, if you proceed with a fixed mindset, you will be limited in what you can accomplish. The same goes for entrepreneurs – plans may not always unfold as you expect them to, but if you are willing and able to adapt, there may be another course of action that yields a similar result. For example, if a start-up at GEC pitched to investors and failed to secure a deal, they will be forced to either give up or seek another option. This ability to adapt is what makes entrepreneurs successful, because they are capable of modifying their business plan in light of setbacks. Starting a new company can be extremely challenging and founders can easily become emotionally invested. If they can be resilient and flexible, they can find success.
Personally, I have always been a planner. I like to know where I’m going, when I’m going and who will be there. I always have a schedule of some kind, even if it is vague, and I like to be organized. Clearly, I’d rather have a list of instructions than no guidance at all. That said, I have been in situations where I have had to adapt. While I am able to be flexible in said situations, I am not always willing. In terms of growth opportunities, I could definitely work on being more welcoming of change. If I were more optimistic about changing plans or unexpected events, I would be better suited to adapt to them. I guess I should try to be a bit more flexible like the Irish!