NEWSLETTTER | WOMEN MOTION
The Instinct-driven Entrepreneur
According to Dr Cobus Oosthuizen, Dean of the Faculty of Management and Leadership at the Milpark Business School, an instinct is an inborn pattern of behaviour that occurs in response to specific stimuli. In the case of entrepreneurship, this would mean an inborn pattern of behaviour that a person exhibits in response to specific stimuli from the environment. Is there an instinct that triggers, in an entrepreneur, the recognition of an opportunity? Is there an instinct that enables the entrepreneur with the energy needed to initiate a concept and realise a value-creating venture?
Humanity instinctively desires to ‘make meaning’, to ‘create value’, and to ‘satisfy needs and wants’ in response to stimuli from our physical environment. We can see this as clearly in the invention of the wheel around 8 000 BC as we can see it in the advent of the Internet. But is this instinct more acute, more ‘awake’ in some people than in others?
Cobus believes that the entrepreneurial instinct is a seed that lies dormant in all humans and that the intensified state of this ‘instinct’ in some can be ascribed to several aspects: upbringing, social interactions, and exposure to learning through education, training and development, whether informal or formal. In other words, entrepreneurs may have to be exposed to a collection of relationships between individuals that comprises a set of distinctive cultural, economic, educational, political, religious and technological properties. This multifaceted exposure ensures that subliminal entrepreneurial conditioning takes place.
Looking at human ability in general demonstrates that most people can run, even though they may not be able to run at the same speed. Most people can hold their breath, but just not all for the same length of time. And most people can sing despite the fact that you may wish some did not!
There are thus abilities inherent to all people, and he proposes that entrepreneurship is one of these. Rather than categorising people into two distinct groups – those who ‘are’ entrepreneurial and those who ‘are not’ entrepreneurial, Cobus believes that most people have the potential to be entrepreneurial. All humans with a sound mind have the potential to think and act entrepreneurially.
If we see entrepreneurship as a blend of ‘instinct’ and learned behaviour, then we can begin to develop an approach to entrepreneurship that accepts it is inherent at its core and that looks actively to understand what is needed in social and exposure terms to allow it to manifest. The extent of this exposure will then act to assist people in becoming entrepreneurs, as entrepreneurship is a fundamental human and creative act that involves, firstly, a process, and, secondly, the creation of value where there was none before. Thirdly, entrepreneurship is about putting resources together in unique ways, and, fourthly, it is about opportunity-driven behaviour.
Necessity breeds innovation and entrepreneurship. This phrase basically outlines one of the defining characteristics of the human race: adaptation. If you are faced with insurmountable odds or if you find yourself backed into a corner, it is your human instinct for survival that allows you to act in imaginative and effective ways.
Surprisingly, a recent study shows that the very same survival instinct one has can help one dominate the world of business. The study, by Symantec Corp., revealed that entrepreneurs who emerged after the recent recession are radically different from those who established their businesses before it.
Dubbed ‘accidental entrepreneurs’, these business tycoons have one thing that their predecessors did not: great need. Today’s newly emerging business leaders did not turn to entrepreneurship to fulfil lifelong dreams: they started their own companies out of the need to make ends meet after an economic shock wave – one that left many corporate paper-pushers jobless on the street.
The Great Depression
The Great Depression was one of the worst times in United States’ history. However, one can argue that the sudden economic collapse gave way to people starting to think creatively and to come up with whole new ways to do business.
People who could not find work doing the things they studied or specialised in learned how to utilise what other resources they had in order to make ends meet. Previously marginalised industries, such as car manufacturing and cinemas, boomed as a result of people suddenly taking a closer look at new opportunities. Such is the result of accidental entrepreneurship.
Prohibition was another economic condition that gave way to arguably some of the most notorious entrepreneurs in history. When the law cracked down on alcohol trade, people previously involved in the industry suddenly found themselves as accidental entrepreneurs, albeit of the more shady kind. From smuggling alcohol to other criminal activity, one could argue that characters like Al Capone were entrepreneurs who thought creatively in the face of necessity.
What Can We Learn from Accidental Entrepreneurs?
Taking a look at history and at the various ‘survivors’ of the recent recession, you might want to adapt certain characteristics that define them: they are profit-driven, they are growth-focused, and they are tech-savvy.
by Shalane van Rensburg