The Debate Continues: Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

The Debate Continues: Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Any time you wonder if entrepreneurs are born with that skill, or if instead they have learned it, just type those terms into your favorite search engine, and you will be overrun with information on both sides of the isle.

So what is the key?

One could conclude that, like most things in life, there is no simple answer; and that what’s right for one person may not be right for another.

In her ForbesWoman Blog post of January 2012, Laura Yecies states,  “With the success and attention garnered by several highly successful entrepreneurs who dropped out of or barely graduated from college to start their companies, we begin to think that that is the typical entrepreneurial model and that, given their youth and relative inexperience, their success was inborn.  The reality though is that – while these young, apparently inborn entrepreneurs are exciting – the data show that they are still rare exceptions, as opposed to the norm, and that in fact entrepreneurs are created by a life full of experiences.”

Business Week came in with a post as well by Karen E. Klein, Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?  Klein got out the books and researched experts such as EQ guru Daniel Goleman, as well as cites Scott Shane, a fellow columnist and the A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University, who participated with several colleagues in the researching and publishing  the book, Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders, (Oxford University Press, 2010).  Shane says that the tendency toward entrepreneurship is about 48 percent “”heritable,”” meaning influenced by genetic factors.

Common themes that appear on this topic include:

  • Passion for an idea
  • Energy and ability to stay on track despite setbacks or negative feedback
  • Vision for applying their talents in niches with which they are familiar or have experience
  • Humility, able to listen to others’ advice, learn
  • Ability to build bonds with others

So how do organizations who support small businesses and entrepreneurs lend a hand in cultivating entrepreneurial growth and success?  Resource partners have rich learning opportunities in the classes they offer; how can the gathering of people together result in more start-ups?

Here are some ideas following the principles of adult learning:

  • Are your participants involved in designing the courses?  Adult learners are self-motivated.  They desire the opportunity to have a say in what they are learning and how it’s delivered.  Gather an small business, start-up, or entrepreneur advisory committee or just get input from a group who are interested in a brief, one time meeting. Simple emailed surveys could be used, too, to determine their preferences for meeting content, timing, location, etc.
  • Allow time for reflection.  Ever notice that during breaks and lunch, the participants enjoy the talking with each other as much as the content of the course?  Would it be possible to integrate as much discussion and Q & A time into your course as actual content delivery?  Adults learn best when they can apply the content to their immediate situation, and reflect with others on what they have learned.  They will retain more of the material if allowed to reflect.
  • Encourage networking.  Offer positive reinforcement when participants exchange phone numbers, business cards, contact information, or otherwise swap and share stories with each other.  Adult learners learn as much from one another as they do the course content.
  • Foster continued contact.  Would it be possible to start a support group, or offer space for participants to meet AFTER the course is over?  Sometimes what is covered in the course may not be applicable to a participant immediately; but they may remember that it was covered at one time.  Asking each other (rather than you) could save you time, and help them rely on each other for help.

Great ideas sprout new great ideas. Creativity is contagious.  Encourage your entrepreneurs and small business owners to stay connected and help each other.  Banks, rural electric cooperatives, libraries, and government offices may have conference room space available at no cost in which your groups can meet.

Through partnerships, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and those who assist them can nurture flourishing systems of support and talent development.

Content contributed by Maria Brown, SoMNSourceLink.  SoMNSourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.

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