Entrepreneurs are born not made.
“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” (Zig ziglar, Author and speaker).
One may be born with the mental capacity to innovate, think big and achieve great success, but success requires more than merely great ideas. Successful Entrepreneurs are people who are able to think critically, manage problem solving, attain people skills and most importantly possess the passion to manifest their dreams into reality.
Nature vs. Nurture
The debate of Nature versus Nurture has been one of the oldest topics address in Psychology. Overall, it is focuses on the relative influence of genetics and the environment on human development. Over time, two separate schools of thought have emerged. Philosophers such as Plato, believe most things are inborn or they occur naturally irrespective of environmental factors. Others like John Locke believe in an idea termed ‘Tabula Rasa’, which states that the mind begins as a blank state. Rendering by this thought, everything we become and all of our knowledge, is determined by our experiences.
However, recent ideas present a wider range of logical reasoning to support related claims. It is definite that certain individuals were born with the innate tendencies to take risks, identify opportunities, speak persuasively symbolic of inherent marketing skills, accept challenges and the ability to overcome failure; these ideas introduce an article titled “Are Entrepreneurs born or made?” in a Bloomberg business week. Also noted was the author of the book ‘Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders’, Scott Shane who persistently presents the idea, “that the tendency toward entrepreneurship is about 48 percent ‘heritable’.
Though certain entrepreneurial attributes are believed to be attained at birth, other key factors such as passion, positive action, commitment, focus, optimism and entrepreneurial consultant John J. Rooney, managing director of IBG, “In my experience…it is clear that much of entrepreneurship can be successfully learned. However, it is also clear that people who take positive action and are focused and committed and continue on despite some negative feedback or setbacks have skill sets and personality traits that can be inborn or learned.” Pursuing a passion is a push from within deems Dean Lindal, Vice president of Entrepreneurs Organization, “anyone anywhere has the opportunity to build a business as long as they have a passion, an attitude of never giving up, and valuable mentors that can complement their skill sets,”.
Other factors aid in entrepreneurial success
John Delmatoff, an executive coach, believes that most entrepreneurs fail due to depending overly on innate skills and an unsubstantial amount on learned skills. It is common for one to try to focus limited resources on several ideas simultaneously, which often results in providing inadequate attention to all finally leading to failure. Hence, persistence, patience and passion to tackle all challenges and focus on the goal are ways of thinking that requires training, development and practice over years of experience. John J Rooney supports this thought by disclosing that a survey conducted by him demonstrated “that 87 percent of entrepreneurs start companies in niches where they already have business experience. People who get formal training are much more likely to succeed than those who fly by the seat of their pants.”
David Weiman, a management psychologist in suburban Philadelphia and a psychology professor at Strayer University believes that optimism and persistence are considered crucial traits in successful entrepreneurs, and can be intentionally practiced through following step-by-step methods to advance ones skill to tackle obstacles and succeed. Wieman supports the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman as he thinks it “seems to suggest that emotional competencies—such as self-awareness or the ability to build bonds, for example—can be learned by anyone who wants to improve in those areas.”
Academic facilities to develop successful entrepreneurs
Long before these ideas were formed, it was believed that entrepreneurship is genetic and could not be taught. Despite this belief for a long time, recently B schools have nurtured an increasing number of entrepreneurs.
Top Ivy League schools in the USA, such as Harvard and Stanford, along with other top schools around the world now offer entrepreneurship courses that engage in an entrepreneurial mindset to nurture entrepreneurs. Such institutes believe they need to provide students with a mode to connect out of school boundaries. As mentioned by HBS professor Peter Tufano, one of the initiators of the Innovation lab at Harvard (i-lab), “Student entrepreneurs don’t respect academic silos, but often find it hard to connect across school boundaries. If we could find ways to facilitate those interactions, bringing them together in an environment that stimulates the sharing of ingenuity, knowledge, and skills, then innovation and creativity could flourish.”
The I-lab is an innovation lab to aid the entrepreneurship course, which recently started at Harvard University. Harvard Business School Dean announced that the intent is to create a supportive and interactive environment where ideas and activities can be shared across disciplines and experiences. The particular idea of the I-lab was developed after the two Harvard students, Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta, invented a launch pad newspaper app so smart phone users could read newspapers on their mobile devices. “Kothari says Pulse may not have even existed if Gupta and he had not attended the Launchpad class”, suggesting that exposure to the vast pool of subjects, concepts and possibilities is required to initiate great ideas which come from within ones self. Such exposure can only be attained by education, where one is formally taught, and gaining experience while undergoing formal training and practice.
Akshay Kothari further admires and credits the root of the idea to education, “The beauty of the class, taught by Michael Dearing and Perry Klebahn, were the short exercises that we did every week. The two professors nudged us to think about everything–distribution, marketing and finance,” implying that the encouragement to think and rightly choose a direction of thought comes from nurturing and inspiring and finally inventing great ideas. Ankit Gupta further builds on this idea, “I come from an engineering background, from IIT Bombay. Design thinking was a completely new way of solving problems… I learnt skills such as brainstorming, interviewing users, rapid prototyping, making mind maps that I could apply to any problem and coming up with creative solutions.”. An entrepreneurship course would encourage such critical thinking and propagate it by formally training their students with such aiding props which would result in the emergence of creative ideas.
However, as mentioned earlier, ideas are only the starting point of entrepreneurial success. True success is finally achieved after much experience and the ability and confidence to try and retry after failure, until one finally succeeds. Such persistence only arises with the willingness to tackle issues, which is an innate characteristic in most people.
How worthwhile is Business School?
An article on the Fox Business Small business center website, titled Entrepreneurs: Born or made, is an interview of a Wharton MBA graduate and a Princeton MBA dropout, both successful entrepreneurs in the current day. This discussion begins with whether an MBA degree is worth the time and money invested or is it better to just invest the same into the start-up idea.
Prasad Thammineni, a Wharton MBA graduate started one of his first companies, ‘JPeople’ before attending business school. Soon after the initial growth of the company, quoted from the article “I realized that I’d hit a wall with my business knowledge.” Thammineni said. Further he mentioned that he felt he had the computer science and mathematics background, along with the knowledge and drive to successfully start a business, but over time, as the organization became increasingly responsible for more employees, Thammineni thought he required to learn more about the basics of operating and growing a business efficiently.
Additionally he mentions, “When you want to grow your company larger, you need a whole new set of tools, including forecasting, marketing, managing risk and limiting company exposure, plus hiring and managing the right type of people at the right time in your company’s growth. I felt the best way to acquire this knowledge would be through an MBA program where I could build a new network at the same time.” The MBA degree successfully served his purpose as it provided him with more tools to improve his ability to handle situations, maintain the correct attitude and think rationally, all of which is imperative to quick and informed decision making.
On the other hand, Seth Priebatsch, a 22-year-old Princeton drop out, currently the CEO of SCVNGR a mobile gaming start up. Priebatsch clearly states his belief, “there are some business situations, especially that you encounter running a start-up, that I just don’t think can be simulated through a case study in a text book. Sometimes you just need to be thrown into the fire.” His perspective constantly supports the idea that experience leads to successful entrepreneurs. “MBA grads that work at SCVNGR, and I’d say that school maybe brought them from being 5% prepared to 10% prepared, but now they’re learning through real-world experience, like myself. No level of practice can really prepare you for this type of environment.” It is true that living in the real world provides certain experiences that would not come around in the cocoon of a university lifestyle.
Some may argue that the preparation school provides is essential to ones survival in the real world, as Thammineni mentioned, it provides one with the appropriate tools to succeed. In conclusion to his interview, Priebstasch sheds us with insight into his view on the topic at hand, “I think you can equate it to poker or blackjack … there is some level of skill required, but the way your cards are dealt also plays a role.” Implying that some characteristics required for you to excel in your chosen area are inborn, but there is some skill and tactic required in the process to win. These skills and tactics are learned through experiences, certain life situations, and ones growth as its consequence, along with an internal drive to excel in what they do.
A Personal View
The topic under scrutiny is whether Entrepreneurs are born or made; essentially scaling down to Nature versus Nurture. Most perspectives stated above support the idea that innate characteristics such as the ability to think creative and big, and the dedication to travel miles in order to succeed are vital, but other crucial factors such as recognizing the area of excellence, developing a passion, efficiently using all resources (including individual capabilities) could be developed and learned through training and experience, providing one with entrepreneurial traits that are key to success.
Experience as a factor to attain success seems to be a common ground for all perspectives highlighted above; my personal view is in agreement with this notion. However, firstly I believe entrepreneurial success starts with exposure to possibilities and a diverse realm of existing knowledge and ideas, most of which remains unknown to a toddler or a grown man, until preached the same within the system of education. Secondly, it is the passion for an area of interest, an object or an idea, which arises from the awareness of possibilities. Finally followed with an imagination, which some perceive as a goal. The encouragement and drive to achieve that goal is a force from within oneself that is influenced by their passion and level of expertise in that subject. One can only attain expertise, subsequent of practice and experience.