The Entrepreneurial Gene – Nature vs Nurture


The world is changing drastically. While there has been a noticeable fall in the number of job opportunities, a more intriguing phenomenon is the trend of transformation in the kinds of jobs offered. The 20th century saw a preference for corporate jobs of a steady kind — low risk, with guaranteed returns and high job security. For generations, this was the pattern followed, and for many even today, the preference for such jobs persists partly due to the safety net such jobs provide in terms of financial backing, and partly due to the constant insistence of the now parental generation to find such jobs.

In the midst of a crowd of job seekers, however, there are a few who have chosen the road less taken: that of job creators. Entrepreneurs, as we call them today, are often pioneers in a field which they themselves are responsible for creating. For those successful, going off the beaten path  pays off spectacularly as they do the unexpected by creating a new market instead of merely improving on an existing one. The decision to jump off the bandwagon and give the world what it never even knew it wanted was precisely the philosophy which made Henry Ford the man he is known as today. In his immortal words, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.

While not all entrepreneurs are pioneers, the decision to become an entrepreneur in today’s day and age is one which not only involves a great deal of risk and uncertainty, but also comes at the opportunity cost of a more comfortable and cosy 9 to 5 office job. Moreover, even if and when one decides to take the risk and become an entrepreneur, becoming a successful one is a different matter altogether. For all the many success stories one hears about entrepreneurs, there are twenty who failed for every one who succeeded. The question this raises concerns what exactly it is that makes an entrepreneur (or rather, a successful one).

Many feel that the affinity for or aversion to risk is something innate to each individual. Even if one were to argue that the decision to take risks is something an individual can be taught, this is only the first hurdle. More than just taking risks, a major part of entrepreneurship consists of the ability to identify opportunities, and take full advantage of them. Here too, both academics and corporate managers disagree. Is the ability to recognise opportunities something one can be taught? Is this not also an inherent ability unique to each and every person?

The question of whether entrepreneurs are born or made is hotly debated to this day, in no small part due to the fact that while one may be taught the technicalities of funding logistics and business plan development, the very idea of a business plan is one which needs to come from the mind of the entrepreneur himself. It is therefore a product of his creative intellect, and creativity can never be taught. Then again, a person’s personality and their wisdom is a combination of their knowledge and experience. With experience comes the ability to learn from failure, to constantly improve and constantly innovate.

If successful businessmen and entrepreneurs agree on one thing, it is that constant innovation is the only way to survive – something entrepreneurs themselves have realised, by taking up an innovative career choice. While there are some who say that entrepreneurs are made by nature and others who say that an entrepreneur is made by nurture, the general consensus is that even if the latter is true, not everyone can be taught to be a entrepreneur. The role of a successful entrepreneur calls for the ability to make decisions and forecast the future of the business; some people are simply not decisive enough, and others may not be of sufficiently analytical bent of mind to accurately read the situation.

More importantly, some people would simply crack under the enormous pressure it often takes to forge an entrepreneur. Whether it is a question of DNA or MBA, and whether or not there exists an ‘entrepreneurial gene’ (which contains all the necessary traits for one to become a successful entrepreneur, as mentioned above), and whether or not we as people are capable of identifying who out of us are cut out for it and who aren’t, is a question which is still up for debate.

-Contributed by Prithviraj

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