Entrepreneurial skills for growth-oriented start-ups
Fueled by the mass adoption of digital technologies, the globalization of markets and changing demographics, the world of work is changing rapidly.
The days of learning as a distinct phase of life are long gone; Talent today must commit to continuously developing new skills and knowledge. In particular, entrepreneurs must continually improve their skills to ensure the success of start-up businesses. A Harvard University study found that up to eighty-five percent of career success stems from well-developed people-centered abilities – what we’ve often called “soft skills.” Given their importance today, a better term is “energy skills” – as technology continues to automate more routine parts of work, a higher premium will be placed on talents who can communicate, collaborate and lead. teams effectively. Considering the vital role that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play in the economic development of any country, it becomes imperative for startups to leverage these powerful skills to optimize business performance.
Technical skills, involving the use of knowledge and tools to accomplish high-level tasks, will always be an essential component of the job. But the ways we work are also rapidly changing, as technologies like artificial intelligence automate routine tasks, and practices like citizen development demystify practices like coding that were previously only available to those who possessed highly technical skills.
In this new paradigm, it is simply table stakes to master the technical side of the job; it is even more crucial to cultivate sustainable human capacities and creativity. These power skills profoundly shape how an individual interacts with others and achieves their goals. Think about abilities like leadership and strategic communication that can’t be easily automated by machines. After all, no matter how advanced computers become, they still lack the ability to rally a team around an inspiring shared vision in the face of challenges. Although the mastery of technical and human skills are necessary to succeed and progress in the market, the acquisition of specialized skills is too often over-emphasized at the expense of other skills which may be more difficult to quantify and measure, such as resilient leadership.
In an effort to help startups navigate the complexities of entrepreneurship in Africa, the Project Management Institute (PMI) has collaborated with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to create a six-part series on “From Idea to Reality : project management for SMEs”. The fifth installment of the masterclass session titled “From Idea to Reality: Power Skills” explored a range of power skills that have helped leaders and organizational teams stay focused, engaged, energized efficiency and deliver business value.
George Asamani, Business Development Manager for Africa at the Project Management Institute (PMI) was the moderator for this session. He shared his wealth of knowledge as an industry expert delivering project solutions that build skills, drive efficiency and impact institutions across all sectors on the continent.
He reiterated the message that successful project management requires more than mastering technical skills; it also requires a special set of skills to align the deployment of all resources towards the desired goal, achieving the set objectives.
To support his point about the often overlooked but strategic impact of power skills, he examined relevant power skills using Porter’s value chain – a framework that breaks down an organization’s activities into strategically relevant. The main activities of Michael Porter’s value chain are inbound logistics, operations, outbound logistics, marketing and sales, and service. The objective of the five sets of activities is to create value that exceeds the cost of conducting that activity, thereby generating a higher profit. He further pointed out that the integration of soft skills such as negotiation, business ethics, strategic thinking, adaptability, resourcefulness, creativity, persuasion, tenacity, emotional intelligence and Logical thinking in value chain activities provides a source of differentiation and competitive advantage for startups.
In a data-driven world, power skills have been somewhat underestimated. This is a big mistake when it comes to project management, where a combination of skills is needed. Today more than ever, due to the unprecedented evolution and complexity of the workplace, the future of the workplace requires agile and change-ready teams, led by strong skills such as collaboration, empathy, creativity and innovation. Power skills allow entrepreneurs to apply their technical understanding in the context of a particular situation.
The Project Management Institute has developed the Talent Triangle, a model for the ideal project manager skill set that includes a mix of the abilities needed to be successful. The talent triangle focuses on the areas of leadership, technical project management, and strategic and business management. Each part of the triangle is of equal importance. “When you consider the challenges of the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship and the debate between hard skills and power skills, you realize that hard skills are not enough, nor are power skills. You need both to thrive in your entrepreneurial journey,” said George Asamani, he further revealed that “people are a startup’s most valuable asset. You get more value in your business when you diversify your team by adding complementary powerful skills.
Although many of these power skills derive from innate ability, the culture of the organization plays a huge role in its development. Startups should develop the soft skills of employees with the required training, as this will help increase overall business performance – and ultimately deliver a higher return on investment.