Babson College and the entrepreneurial mindset. The term is a foundation for the institution, and in the conscience of all its students.
But, what about the improvisational mindset? The one that requires a candid ability to pivot, to think on your toes, and to consider new outcomes, particularly the ones exposed during the pandemic.
Assistant Professor Lakshmi Balachandra said Taylor Swift put both mindsets on full display when, on July 24, she released her new impromptu album, “Folklore,” just hours after announcing the record on social media.
“There are set processes in place, but she was able to do all of this when we were in a pandemic,” Balachandra said. “To rethink, do it quickly, and to do it so well, is astounding.”
Balachandra’s recent research hones in on the improvisational mindset as one that dynamic leaders use to adapt quickly to meet new demands and challenges, achieved by weighing input from constituents even beyond the customer.
“Swift’s business is music. Even though the market looks like you couldn’t do it, an entrepreneur can look at this landscape and say, ‘There might be another way,’ ” Balachandra said. “We’re equipping students with this idea that, ‘you have to be aware of what’s around you.’ You have to act. You can’t sit still.
“The work and research you may have done as an entrepreneur to run your business, that has disappeared,” she added. “You have to rethink everything to understand the new landscape.”
In its first week, “Folklore” topped Billboard’s latest album chart with 846,000 sales, the third-highest total of any album in four years, topped only by Swift’s previous two albums, “Reputation” and “Lover.”
She described her decision to release the album, which a year ago she said may have hesitated to do until the “perfect time,” as a choice to put something you love “out in the world.” While a strategy like this may work for someone with a brand and following as large as Swift, Balachandra urged it may not apply for a newly founded venture.
“Taylor Swift, she’s a ‘well-established corporation,’ ” Balachandra said. “It’s very different when you’re an unknown, a small business, a startup. There’s a balance between coming up with something new and innovative, and trying to sell it.”
Creativity is common, but what distances the entrepreneurs, and the singers and songwriters from the pack, is the willingness to act.
“What separates successful artists from ones that don’t go very far, is being able to think about what they need to do,” Balachandra said. “Then, they go do it.”