Provenance the Web Magazine ISSN 1203-8954 - Vol.1, No.3 - July 1996


Stan Skrzeszewski

These are "seminar notes" (revised Sept. '95) introducing and defining the concept of entrepreneurship from a series through the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, in Canada.


In this course we will examine three types of library entrepreneur:

  • the entrepreneur who works outside of the traditional setting and outside the traditional library, and
  • the intrapreneur who can work from within an organization, and
  • the policy entrepreneur who champions change in public policy.

It is questionable if entrepreneurship can be taught or even clearly defined. Drucker claims it is just systematic innovation. The concept of entrepreneurship is very fuzzy.

  • Exercise: Write down your definition of what constitutes entrepreneurship. Write down key phrases.

Review of definitions.

"The entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield".
- J.B. Say c.1800

"...the entrepreneur must anticipate demand...and bear the risks attendant upon fluctuations in demand".
- The MIT Dictionary of Modern Economics

"Entrepreneurs, those in business for themselves are "the poets and packagers of new ideas, both visualizers and actualizers...The entrepreneur is the new non-violent Change Agent".
- Bob Schwartz in The Aquarian Conspiracy.

"Entrepreneurial activity is more spiritual in that it depends largely on motivational factors in developing a new library product/service"
- Donald E. Riggs

"The entrepreneur is the one to conceive of a new venture, to define and organize it, to finance it, and to assume responsibility for the risk associated with a new undertaking"
. - Florence M. Mason

"Change Masters are those people and organizations adept at the art of anticipating the need for, and of leading, productive change".
- Rosabeth Moss Kanter

"Entrepreneurship: Behaviour that is dynamic, risk taking, creative and growth oriented".
"Entrepreneur: A person who displays entrepreneurship and is willing to take action to pursue opportunities in situations others view as problems or threats"
. - Schermerhorn. Management for Productivity. p. 698.

The entrepreneur is a person who carries out "new combinations of productive forces or enterprises...The entrepreneur functions as an agent of change in an otherwise repetitive defining:

  1. new products or services,
  2. new methods of production,
  3. new markets,
  4. new sources of supply or
  5. new forms of organization.
- Joseph Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development.

Entrepreneurship is sweeping the world. That is, the habit, or response, of enterprise of seeing new needs and services that should be supplied, having the practical follow-through to make sure that they are supplied, and the willingness to take the measured risk to make it happen.

Entrepreneurs can be motivated by money and profit, but they can also be motivated by a desire to bring about social or community change. A social entrepreneur takes the entrepreneurial characteristics of being creative, dynamic and risk taking, and applies them to being an advocate or a change agent for programs and services on the leading edge of community or societal development.

Entrepreneurship in the non-profit sector is motivated to enhance organizational capacity to achieve goals rather than to make a profit. This non-profit activity may manifest itself in the seizing of opportunities to increase revenue through profitable ventures which will enable the organization to subsidize its revenue base. Entrepreneurship is also strongly manifested in the demonstration of innovative and creative responses to social needs and in advocating for progressive public policy.

"To be an entrepreneur is to take calculated or responsible risks.


Response - Ability

Opportunity Seizing - Capacity Building

"Response-ability is the keynote of entrepreneurial leadership. The response must be one that is skilled, professional and appropriate to identified and emerging needs. The ability must be founded on organizational capacity, legitimacy and integrity.

Creating stable entrepreneurial growth is reliant on a balance between capacity building and opportunity seizing. The keys to organizational capacity are flexibility, collaboration, legitimacy, and structural integrity. To seize opportunities an organization must be visionary, knowledgeable of its mandate, ethical and willing to risk.

Organizations must create a balance between capacity building and opportunity seizing. Let's take a look at the characteristics of capacity building and opportunity seizing.

Capacity Building:

Flexibility: Flexibility if the power to fully utilize the structures built to serve an organization's mission. Administrative structures, personnel teams, resources, and communications systems must be designed to shift, maneuver and respond to various needs.

Staff must be flexible in utilizing all their talents and abilities. A trusting and cooperative staff team is a necessary part of an agencies capacity to respond to opportunities. There is no room for rivalry when a team is focused on expansion. An environment that fosters win-win attitudes will promote flexibility. Professional development and team building will expand organizational flexibility. Job descriptions should be designed to provide time for professional development and special projects.

Collaboration: Although entrepreneurs are assumed to be competitive individualists effective action, whether as an individual or as an organization, is based on joint action. An entrepreneur seldom has all the resources immediately at hand, but must use all the resources required to achieve objectives. These are obtained through collaboration.

Legitimacy: In order to compete on the leading edge, an entrepreneur must be credible and have a solid reputation. Legitimacy must be built through solid professional work, and a professional network. New businesses or organizations often seek legitimacy through partnerships with established and reputable institutions. Primarily legitimacy is built through achievements and documented successes. Legitimacy is also an image that is built through marketing and public relations.

Structural Integrity: In order to seize opportunities, the > >entrepreneur or entrepreneurial organization needs to have the > >administrative sophistication and structure to handle multiple > >opportunities and projects.

Opportunity Seizing:

Vision: In order to be dynamic, creative and growth oriented, an entrepreneur needs a vision of what can be and of what can be achieved. A vision of where the organization is headed is necessary to guide the organization to choose the opportunities it wishes to act upon. A successful entrepreneur cannot just be lead by opportunity. It must also have a vision of what it wants to achieve. The vision should be based on data, information, intelligence and intuition and be developed and shared by as many stakeholders in the project or organization as possible.

Knowledge of mandate: An entrepreneurial organization needs to know and clearly understand its position, role and mandate within the community. A successful entrepreneur does not compete for the sake of competition. There is little to gain and much to lose by venturing into areas that are beyond your mandate, or selected area of expertise, or are the mandate or area of expertise of another organization. A successful entrepreneur does actively work to enable others to succeed in their entrepreneurial ventures and fulfill their mandates.

Ethical: Strong values and a firm ethical base will provide the entrepreneur with the stability to venture into uncertain and unfamiliar areas. Honesty and integrity are as important as esteem and confidence when presenting yourself or your organization to clients or partners.

Willing to Risk: Venturing into new areas undoubtedly means that some projects will fail or not materialize. Often it is very difficult, when you have worked hard on a proposal, to hear that tender was not accepted or that proposal was rejected. It is important to be able to learn from mistakes and continue to risk".
- From a Paper of Entrepreneurship by Valerie Bolton.

  • Exercise: Entrepreneurship consists of seizing opportunities. An entrepreneur sees problems as a source of opportunities. Using the following format list as many problem situations and perceived opportunities in a library or information service setting as you can.

Problem        Perceived           Actions Needed      Perceived 

               opportunities       to realize          Risk


_________      ____________        _____________       _________

Stan Skrzeszewski


  • Drucker, Peter F. Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles. New York, Harper & Row, 1985.
  • Kilgour, Frederick G. Entrepreneurial Leadership. Library Trends, Vol. 40, No. 3, Winter, 1992, pp. 457-74.
  • White, Herbert S. Entrepreneurship and the Library Profession. Journal of Library Administration, Vol.8(1), Spring, 1987. p.11-27.

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