The Psychological Make-Up of An Entrepreneur

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Studies show that the psychological propensities for male and female entrepreneurs are more similar than different. Empirical studies suggest that male entrepreneurs possess strong negotiating skills and consensus-forming abilities.

Jesper Sørensen, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, wrote that significant influences on an individual’s decision to become an entrepreneur are workplace peers and the social composition of the workplace. Sørensen discovered a correlation between working with former entrepreneurs and how often these individuals become entrepreneurs themselves, compared to those who did not work with entrepreneurs. The social composition of the workplace can influence entrepreneurism in workplace peers by proving a possibility for success, causing a “He can do it, why can’t I?” attitude. As Sørensen stated, “When you meet others who have gone out on their own, it doesn’t seem that crazy.”

Innovative entrepreneurs may be more likely to experience what psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow. Flow occurs when the outside world disappears in the face of a vibrant inner motivation to do something. Csikszentmihalyi suggests that breakthrough innovations occur at the hands of individuals experiencing flow. They become so enthralled with the ideas in their heads that they cannot help but follow them. Similarly, other research has concluded that a strong internal motivation is a vital ingredient for breakthrough innovation. Flow may also be compared to Maria Montessori’s concept of normalization, a state which includes a child’s capacity for joyful and lengthy periods of intense concentration. Csikszentmihalyi himself acknowledges that Montessori’s prepared environment offers children opportunities to achieve flow. Thus quality and type of early education may have some influence on entrepreneurial capability.

Innate Ability vs. Public Perception

The ability of entrepreneurs to innovate relates to innate traits, including extroversion and a proclivity for risk-taking. According to Joseph Schumpeter, the capabilities of innovating, introducing new technologies, increasing efficiency and productivity, or generating new products or services, are characteristic qualities of entrepreneurs. Also, many scholars maintain that entrepreneurship is a matter of genes, and that it is not everyone who can be an entrepreneur. It has, however, been argued that entrepreneurs are not that distinctive; and that it is essentially poor conceptualizations of “non-entrepreneurs” that maintain laudatory portraits of “entrepreneurs”.

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