Think Different, Be Different! Develop an Enterprise Mindset

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Mr Iheanyi Ibe, Enterprise Adviser at UWE Bristol and Coordinator of the Student Ventures Hub recently delivered a workshop on Enterprise as part of the Department of Applied Sciences Monthly Employability programme. Iheanyi gained a first degree in Pharmaceutical Science (BSc) and proceeded to a Masters in Business Administration. He worked in the Biopharma sector for several years before taking a different route into  entrepreneurship  developing expertise in this area and now supports entrepreneurial programmes across different institutions the UK.

So why enterprise and should it matter to you as a scientist?

Typically, students do not understand the term enterprise and automatically assume it is starting or owning a business. According to Iheanyi, it is more than that. He says, “Think of enterprise like a stem cell. ” Stem cells are special human cells with the ability to develop into many different cell types. Enterprise is just like that. Skills that give you the ability to do anything you want to.

It has been defined by the QAA (2012) as “applying creative ideas and innovations to provide practical situations. Therefore, it combines creativity, idea development and problem solving with communication and action.”

For students in the sciences, aspiring scientists, academics, or even those already working in the field, enterprise is very important and should be part of your thinking and your mindset. It is really about how to identify problems and proposing solutions to addressing them.

“There is nothing new about enterprise. In fact, as a species, it can be argued that we exist today because we are enterprising.”

So broadly speaking, having an idea you can capitalise on and can meet people’s needs OR having a business, are both descriptions of enterprise.

Do you need special skills to be an entrepreneur?

The answer is NO!

Iheanyi described a discussion he has with his son about something his son wanted him to do. The nature of the conversation and the outcomes from it indicated that right from an early age, we get to apply different skills that are entrepreneurial in nature. These skills include recognising what you want or need, negotiating and communication.

“The inherent skills you use in everyday life such as negotiating with parents, negotiating with your children (for some of you) and compromising with friends are the skills we tend to take for granted, but use them in our everyday life.”

Does it matter if I do not want to be an Entrepreneur?

It does! Employers are looking for candidates that can demonstrate these skills. “20% of employers reported ‘alarming weakness in skills around team working’ and a similar proportion identified weaknesses in problem solving skills among graduates.”

In a article published in the Guardian, employers expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of some graduates, with a third of companies unhappy with graduates’ attitude to work, citing lack of resilience, self-management skills, cultural awareness, and customer awareness article. In addition, the CEO of Be Wiser Insurance group, added “You would expect that university education would teach some basic business etiquette, and certainly communication skills.”

These are the skills you are expected to demonstrate to employers regardless of your subject area and field of study and these are examples of entrepreneurial skills.

What are these Entrepreneurial skills?

  • Commercial awareness
  • Creative and innovating thinking
  • Prioritisation and time management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication, negotiation and persuasive skills

“These are no different from the skills you gain on your programme through presentations, writing essays, doing assignments, final year projects, team sports and society activities etc. do not underestimate the amount of skills you have gained through each year of your study, many of you are ready to succeed in the commercial world to embark on enterprising projects and initiatives.” – Iheanyi

Do you have the mindset of an Entrepreneur?

The speaker gave an example of people who go to a pub and are comfortable speaking to others, communicating to different folk, however struggle to speak in other settings or unable to do a presentation. This, he described is a problem with “mindset”. For you to succeed in your career, in the scientific world or as entrepreneur, you need to be willing to challenge your mindset, move out of your comfort zone otherwise you would be similar to graduates described by the CEO of Be Wiser Insurance group (“not prepared for the real world of work and often requiring ego-massaging”).

Testing your Creativity – Group Task

The students were put into groups of two to identify how many uses they could find for a paperclip. This was a 2-minute challenge and from the groups (6 in total), the ideas included: (a) a sculpture (b) a back scratcher (c) for cleaning hard-to-reach areas (d) bracelet (e) ear piercer etc.

Challenge to you – How many different uses for the paper clip did you find?

If you are able to think of a use for the paperclip, you have just demonstrated enterprise. Thus, enterprise is having the idea, mindset and action to create solutions to problems. Something you do regularly!

Skills audit

Can you identify what skills you demonstrate or utilise in the following tasks?

  • Writing an assignment
  • Writing a project proposal
  • Delivering a poster presentation
  • Group work
  • Examinations etc.

 Group Exercise

The students were given a task to perform based on this scenario.

 “You are meant on be on a trip to Singapore, what do you need to do before you go, while you are there and when you return?”


We would encourage you to try this task in your own time as those who attended the workshop found it useful to think through the scenario and to identify challenges as well as create new opportunities.

What will you do?

  • Before – this is where you plan
  • During – this is where you learn
  • After – this is where a lot of the reflection is, knowledge is gained and shared

Final notes from the speaker

  • Your personal life is not so different from the commercial world. What matters is your mindset
  • Improving your enterprise skills and your ability to identify and develop opportunities will benefit you whether you pursue a career in academia or decide to move into business or develop your own company. 
  • It is relatively easier to develop ‘Commercial Awareness’ from a technical and scientific background than doing things the other way round.
  • As a student, you demonstrate enterprise in your day-to-day activities, during the degree, general social situations and work experience. What is most important is learning to recognise these skills and articulate them!

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it with others. Also, if you have an article or topic you would like to share with us, do contact us at ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk 

You can learn more about the speaker by visiting Iheanyi’s LinkedIn page here .

For information about opportunities to develop your own business, apply for enterprise grants or for advice and mentoring contact the UWE Bristol enterprise team at enterprise@uwe.ac.uk 

If you missed our previous articles, Click on the links below 

Science Futures 2020: Post Event Highlights (Part I)

Sandwich Placements and Internships: Getting to Know the Application process 

…and for the Guardian article 

Guardian (2017). A third of employers are unhappy with graduates’ attitude to work. (link

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