The Entrepreneurial Mindset

What is an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

An entrepreneurial mindset (EM) influences the way you think about the world and act upon what you see. It is a collection of mental habits that empower you to question, adapt, and make positive change, leading you to:

  • Recognize and identify opportunities
  • Focus on their impact
  • Create value in any context 

While these abilities are important in many different fields, our focus is on engineers. The entrepreneurial mindset amplifies the work that engineers already do, equipping them to solve societal problems and create an environment for human flourishing.

Think about a recent technical achievement. An engineer almost certainly contributed to it! 

Engineers work with a wide range of businesses to deliver solutions at scale. They collaborate with chemists, doctors, and elected officials. They have the potential to make a positive impact on society and the world around them. 

Curiosity, Connections, Creating Value

The entrepreneurial mindset consists of three key elements: Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value—the 3C’s. This emergent understanding came from years of work with KEEN faculty, students, and industry. 

Entrepreneurially minded individuals:

  • Have a constant curiosity about our changing world and employ a contrarian view of accepted solutions.
  • Habitually connect information from many sources to gain insight and manage risk.
  • Create value for others from unexpected opportunities as well as persist through, and learn from, failure.

Person holding globe


Understand the broader world. Look toward the future. Explore multiple perspectives.

Today’s solutions are often obsolete tomorrow. Students must be empowered to investigate a rapidly changing world with an insatiable curiosity.


Think outside the box. Place old ideas in new contexts. Gain insights.

Discoveries alone are not enough. Students must habitually pursue knowledge and integrate it with their own discoveries to reveal innovative solutions.
Creating Value

Creating Value

Seek opportunities. Understand stakeholders. Have a positive impact.

Innovative solutions are most meaningful when they create extraordinary value for others. Students must be champions of value creation.

A Framework for Entrepreneurial Mindset

The KEEN Framework

Download and use the Framework - an adaptable guide that provides mindset and skillset learning outcomes for engineering students.

The Framework is used by thousands of faculty to create educational materials and teaching concepts that equip engineering students with an entrepreneurial mindset.

Community-Created Resources

Start exploring the entrepreneurial mindset with resources shared by community members (you may have to log in or register to access some content):

Getting started with the entrepreneurial mindset

Get Started

With the entrepreneurial mindset

Wondering how to apply, infuse, and adapt the entrepreneurial mindset within your classes and curriculum? Browse these selections!
Starter Pack of Entrepreneurial Mindset

Adapt & Adopt

Activities and techniques

This set of cards provides adaptable resources that canvass the 3Cs - Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value - as well as Opportunity Recognition.
Innovation Challenges


Challenging workouts for teams

Promote the entrepreneurial mindset through multiple exposures to the innovation process in a competitive, multidisciplinary, team-based, creative environment.

Concept Map

Concept Map

Faculty insights & activities

Explore the Who, What, Why, and How aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset within a variety of settings and populations.
The Journey to the Top: Board Game

Game Play

The Journey to the Top: Board Game

Teach first-year engineering students about concepts associated with an entrepreneurial mindset!
Future Products

Future Products

Predicting breakthrough features

There are no limits to innovation! Encourage students to explore both the expected and the outrageous when predicting features.

How Can Institutions Incorporate Entrepreneurial Engineering?

Entrepreneurially-minded engineers recognize problems as opportunities, assess the potential impact of solutions, and use their skills to create value for others. An entrepreneurial mindset can be related to entrepreneurship, but is not exclusive to new ventures. 

Equally, institutions of higher learning are frequently hubs of innovation and value creation. The entrepreneurial engineering approach allows students to co-create with faculty members. Faculty in turn re-imagine courses, labs, and activities – and find greater fulfillment in the process. The entrepreneurial mindset allows institutions to be faithful to their original charter while preparing graduates for an ever-changing world.

Entrepreneurially minded learning does not sacrifice technical knowledge. Instead, it can be coupled with other pedagogical approaches to inspire shifts in mindset. 

Entrepreneurial engineering emphasizes discovery, opportunity identification, and value creation. Graduates benefit from this approach. They are able to evaluate market needs, societal trends, and technical feasibility. 

Risk and uncertainty are also part of entrepreneurial thinking. Your students will face personal risks, market risks, opportunity costs, demands from stakeholders; the list goes on. An entrepreneurial mindset can help them manage these risks and be comfortable with uncertainty.

Andrew Maynard, Director for the Risk Innovation Lab in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, examines the risks and benefits of emerging technologies. While such technologies could improve our lives, their very strangeness can also cause fear. 

What Do Companies Want From Engineers?

Companies who hire your graduates want them to be equipped with a broad set of skills—professional skills along with technical acumen. 

Bob Baker, former Senior Vice President of Technology & Manufacturing at Intel, talks about why entrepreneurial mindset benefits engineers and the companies that employ them. 

Teaching the entrepreneurial mindset will help your students work better within teams, communicate more effectively, listen to stakeholders, ask the right questions, and understand the needs of others.  

Entrepreneurially minded learning helps students adapt and engage in a changing world of work. It gives them the “Why” to enhance the “How” in what they do. 

The Engineering Unleashed community is invested in more than just teaching for what industry wants. The characteristics of an entrepreneurial mindset provide a deeper sense of meaning for your students. They won’t just deliver a product. They’ll create value.

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