Entrepreneurship: Nature vs. nurture?
Can entrepreneurship be taught? Or is it something in the blood?
The answer seems to be “yes”, according to the first phase of an ambitious study of of more than 5,500 students and graduates of five universities. The research was conducted by a team of researchers from NYU Stern School and NYU Steinhardt and financed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Small Business Administration.
The study found that students who take entrepreneurial courses are more likely to launch, run or be employed by a start-up than others. That’s no shocker. But it also discovered that students who took an entrepreneurial course were more innovative than company founders who didn’t. That is, they had more–way more–patents or copyrights (75% vs. 19%), new production processes (62% vs. 28%), and new services or products (86% vs. 18%)
At the same time, undergraduate respondents who are extroverted and come from families with entrepreneurs had more intention to start a company than others–a finding underscoring the idea that the itch to found a company is in the blood.
A few days ago, Scott Shane, a professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western, posted something on a related note. According to Shane, he’s been studying whether becoming an entrepreneur is “heritable”. He says it is. So are such entrepreneurial personality traits as openness to experience. In fact, Shane is studying whether there are specific genes that might be associated with a propensity to become an entrepreneur.
The ultimate implication, of course, is whether it’s a waste of time to attend an entrepreneurial program or you should just get an MBA, or not, and go out and do it. My feeling: You can’t turn a risk-averse introvert into an entrepreneur. But, someone with the right set of personality traits and background–send that person to a good program and he or she will benefit mightily from it. And, so will we all.