Exploring the concept of whether entrepreneurs are born or bred turned out to be far more fascinating than I would have initially thought. In previous issues, I have alluded to the fact that many entrepreneurs that we define as successful have had some form of early influence, either in terms of parental example, or parental challenge. However, the topic becomes far more intricate if we break down the debate into various categories.

 

ECONOMIC THEORY

No one would disagree that entrepreneurs have the ability both to see potential market opportunities and to potentiate them. However, it is through nurture that they are able to gather the appropriate skills and resource support to exploit this opportunity appropriately. They would have the initial innate vision and the stomach for risk; however, they would then intellectually formalise a practical process. This would be realised from prior learning, either formal or informal.

PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY

This aspect of the debate focuses primarily on temperament and personality profiles. Various schools of thought edge nurture slightly ahead of nature. One may be born with all the previously discussed traits, such as a sense of adventure, not averse to risk taking, visionary, creative, ambitious etc; but without a conducive or receptive environment within which to cultivate these traits, it is unlikely that they will reach any form of satisfactory fruition.

One may quote an interesting anecdote at this juncture to support this statement. Let us look at Singapore: it has the third-lowest entrepreneurial rate amongst a whole host of countries rated. A nanny, or partially socialist state, does not condone or promote individual traits of personal independence or self-reliance. Singapore falls into this type of economic definition. John Kenneth Galbraith once said, ‘In any great society, it is far, far safer to be wrong with many, than to be right alone’. Successful countries like Singapore are less likely to produce a meaningful entrepreneurial society when everybody is doing well. Why would you take a financial risk which may mean you are not able to keep up with the Jones’s? They are lulled into a safe and risk-averse environment, which thwarts any potential budding entrepreneur.

INTRAPRENEURIAL THEORY

An intrapreneur falls somewhere between a traditional manager and a traditional entrepreneur. Thus, he is an entrepreneur wanna-be, who, however likes the idea of a stable income every month, secure office, and a boss down the hall. He is a free-thinker and a visionary and needs freedom within an organisation to conduct his best work.

SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

This can be described as entrepreneurial heritage – the socio-cultural factors that mould a personality. Many entrepreneurs come from strong entrepreneurial families, which shape the course of their business paths. Others are forced to adapt under certain circumstance, such as being fired from a job; this could be an opportunity presenting itself, as opposed to an occasion to view oneself as a failure. Stirrings of a great entrepreneurial spirit can arise from the ashes of the most desolate situation.

On the basis of the evidence, it appears that although both nature and nurture contribute toward the mould, nurture has the edge. Being born with a set of personality traits simply isn’t enough without a receptive environment, access to formal education and informal learning opportunities.

Morgan O’Flaherty, Entrepreneur of the Year 2005, said ‘I don’t think people are born entrepreneurs, I think that they are trained to be entrepreneurs’.

On looking back, I see myself and two siblings, all under the age of 10, selling raffle tickets for a charity organisation. We were paid commission depending on the amount of tickets sold. In our adolescent years we made pocket money helping my mother with a direct-marketing education program she had created. To this day, a successful small industry operates out of her home. So, I am leaning toward nurture…

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