Ask 10 people what an entrepreneur is and you'll get 10 pretty similar answers. Most of us envision entrepreneurs as creative eccentrics subsisting on Mountain Dew and Hot Pockets while staying up all night drawing futuristic-looking blueprints on the windows of their studio apartment. The crux of this stereotype is our assumption that entrepreneurship is all about one breakthrough moment of creative brilliance. But that's not right. Coming up with that first incandescently brilliant idea is a necessary, but insufficient step on the path to successful entrepreneurship.
What separates the thinkers from the doers is the follow-through and business acumen to translate brilliant idea into profitable company. This part of the equation doesn't happen serendipitously, it requires continuous smart decision-making and a degree of market-savvy that few inherently possess.
Fortunately, you can grow into entrepreneurship. The key is to start arming yourself today with the tools and skills you need to capitalize once your great idea is game-ready. There are lots of obvious things you can do to this end--business classes, finding a mentor, etc.--but one less obvious tool that you can use to aid your entrepreneurial journey is Twitter lists.
Any Twitter user has the capability to create lists of Twitter handles in any category they want (e.g. a "Tech News" or "PR Influencers"). Using lists can go a long way toward taming Twitter's inherent chaos, as they help divvy up Twitter's core news feed into more digestible and category-driven segments. This function works beautifully in TweetDeck, which enables users to create individual columns within its interface devoted to specific lists. It makes it easy to visually digest the information from individual Twitter lists.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Twitter lists are a great tool for focused learning. Here are three such lists each future entrepreneurs should build today:
1. MBA Crash Course List
Create a Twitter list of 15-30, savvy business people (CEOs, business professors, venture capitalists, etc.) and soak in everything you can from their tweets. This list is all about immersive learning: throw yourself into this world and you'll be pleased with how much you pick up and how relevant it is as you continue working on your own entrepreneur aspirations.
Choose the people for this list on their general business knowledge, not for their relevance to your aspirational industry (that's another list). Pay attention to what they say, how they say it and the content they share. Beyond the obvious benefit of learning from each 140 character burst of wisdom this crowd puts out, this list will help you pick up on business pros' vernacular and intel on what they are reading on a daily basis.
(If you're looking for a head start on who to put in this list, Emily Pope put together a great list of 11 Successful Entrepreneurs You Should Be Following On Twitter).
2. Creative Inspiration List
Create a Twitter list of 15-30 people/brands you find creatively inspiring. This list is all about atmospheric learning: surround yourself with those who produce things that evoke something in you, and capitalize on that surge of energy. This list is a good companion to the other two lists because it asks something different of you. You don't need to study this list for literal learnings; instead think of this list as textual/visual equivalent of some really good background music.
Choose the people for this list based on what you know about yourself and what puts you in a creative space. There's no wrong way to populate this type of list. As long as you are deliberate in considering who to add, you'll be pleased with how this list helps transport your mind to a productive place; a place where you can work on building things.
3. Aspirational Industry List
Create a list of 15-30 people/brands who thrive in the industry where you want your eventual innovations to occur. This list is all about comparative learning: understanding the space you want to impact is crucial to making smart strategic decisions once you're ready for blast off. The mere process of creating this list is a good competitive research exercise. Learn who is doing well in your niche and populate this list accordingly.
In time, the Aspirational Industry list will allow you to identify industry trends, gaps and opportunities. This is the type of intel that is crucial to crystalizing your entrepreneurial value proposition and ideal market positon.
If you accept the premise that you have some learning to do before you can make it big out on your own, then this strategic approach to Twitter lists will give you a leg up on the MBA-only crowd. Your MBA Crash Course list will give you a daily dose of real-life business knowledge; your Creative Inspiration list will provide you with the atmospherics you need to perfect your offering; and your Aspirational Industry list will prepare you for the world you're destined to dazzle with your brilliance. You've got this!