“Entrepreneurs are born and not made.” This is an idea as old as the nature vs. nurture debate. However, in my opinion, this theory is not necessarily true.
Knowledge Hungry Society
All humans are born with the inherent ability to take risk, identify and solve a problem that could be a potential opportunity and endure all odds of success/failure. We are born with an inherent need to satiate curiosity, to know! Children automatically reach out and seek to satisfy their curiosity of the novel and the unknown, owing to their innocence, their ignorance of risk.
In seeking to satisfy their curiosity without fear of the unknown, they learn. We humans are programmed to protect ourselves and our own. As we grow and know more, our need to satiate curiosity declines and our appetite for risk reduces. We tend to increasingly apply heuristics and personal theory to the assessment of risks, which makes us shy away from trying out new things. We, thus, inadvertently programme ourselves to stay away from the unconventional and focus on the normal.
This is true in most cases, but not all. Let us look at the case of those who choose to join the armed forces. These people willingly put their lives at risk for the noble cause of protecting their nation. Perhaps they see more danger in leaving their country unprotected than in protecting it personally. Perhaps this makes them more passionate about the cause.
Having enrolled for the armed forces, the soldiers undergo extensive training and their training is focused on developing their reflexes to help them protect themselves whilst causing maximum damage to their enemies, and the rigorous training builds their confidence to face hostile situations. Across the world, the armed forces would rank among the largest employers. Considering the number of people putting themselves at personal risk and using training to offset that hazard, maybe we should rethink whether risk appetite is even be a real consideration in the choice of profession.
The ‘Risk’ with Entrepreneurship
The argument could be extended to entrepreneurship as well. Maybe it is not the ‘risk’ factor that deters one from being an entrepreneur, and training could prepare more people to face the risk and work towards a cause they are passionate about.
Let us look at some statistics from India to understand this phenomenon better. India has more than 48 million small businesses, double that of the USA, which has about 23 million. The small and micro enterprises in India contribute 8 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create 1.3 million jobs every year. Clearly, there is no dearth of entrepreneurs in the country.
The growth of China was fueled by many small and micro-enterprises, and the success of Germany has been built on the base of a large number of small and micro organisations, rather than a few large companies. However, most of these small enterprises sprouted up owing to the lack of employment opportunities. The enterprising take the lead in a floundering economy to kick start the production and consumption cycle, thereby generating economic growth and the further building of opportunities.
Education can boost entrepreneurial spirit
The world has always faced many challenges, and it will continue to do so going forward. Challenges result in opportunities that fuel the passions of many who are keen to address them. However, the prevailing education system, at a broad level, tends to defeat the passions of young people and dampens their inherent risk-taking abilities. Ideally, the education system should ignite the passions of the young and provide them with the skills and knowledge to pursue their dreams to build enterprises. This is definitely achievable if the education system delivers on the following:
- At the very outset, we must teach our students to use their knowledge for solving problems, servicing needs of the society and confidently facing adverse circumstances.
- We must train their reflexes to address hostile business/social conditions to enhance their confidence in dealing with such situations (akin to the training of soldiers).
- Provide them with adequate knowledge for scaling up their enterprises and also to help them in determining the scope of an opportunity.
- Nurture their inherent need to serve, and train them to rein in greed.
- Help them embrace failure, and also educate them to appreciate the efforts put in by entrepreneurs instead of their outcomes. This would help in getting the society to stop seeing failure as a taboo.
- Develop a framework for free thinking that leads to innovation.
- Create an ecosystem for incubating and accelerating ideas into enterprises.
Entrepreneurship can be nurtured through education. This has already begun, and the day is not far off when entrepreneurship will become a common, respectable profession.
The new startup ecosystem is providing the necessary impetus for the development of entrepreneurship. This ecosystem has structurally entered the corridors of formal education delivery organisations in the form of incubators and accelerators. Institutions are offering Majors in the area of entrepreneurship and existing entrepreneurs are willingly spending time sharing their knowledge and experience with young and budding entrepreneurs.
Thus, the process has already begun, and the myth that entrepreneurs cannot be educated or nurtured will be shattered soon.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)