Entrepreneurs And Entrepreneurship

Born or Made, Art or Science

When it comes to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, the age-old question is, “Are entrepreneurs born or made?” For example, would Apple become the powerhouse it is today if Steve Jobs had never been fired, journeyed through the “wilderness,” and then come back to lead the company a different man? So, is entrepreneurship a talent or genius, or is it something that can be learned and developed?

Previously, we briefly discussed Schumpeter’s thoughtson the entrepreneur. My introduction to Schumpeter came from Peter Drucker (1909-2005), another seminal 20th Century figure in the study of entrepreneurism. Drucker gave Schumpeter stout praise, saying, “Of all the major modern economists only Schumpeter concerned himself with the entrepreneur and his impact on the economy.”

While not an economist himself, Drucker was no slouch when it came to exploring the role and impact of the entrepreneur on organization and society.

Social Ecologist

According to his bio on his institute’s website, Drucker described himself as a “’social ecologist’ who explored the way human beings organize themselves and interact much the way an ecologist would observe and analyze the biological world.” As with Schumpeter before him, the role entrepreneurs play in society fascinated Drucker.

After many years of “observation, study, and practice,” Drucker came to see entrepreneurship as a discipline that requires an interdisciplinary approach. He did not see it as a “mysterious gift, talent, inspiration, or flash of genius,” but more as what he describes as “purposeful tasks that can be organized” as “systematic work.”

Systematic Practice

In his classic business tome, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Drucker argues that entrepreneurship is neither science nor art, but rather a systematic practice. It also not relegated only to the founders of new enterprises, but is part of every executive’s job.

Entrepreneurship, in Drucker’s mind, is the “new applications of knowledge to human work” and its “new technology” is what he calls “entrepreneurial management.” It is not speculation. Most failure is the result of taking action without thinking. It is knowledge work. So, entrepreneurs use their knowledge to come up with new applications to innovatively change the way we do things and thus create competitive advantage. It is a thoughtful process of experimentation and practice. Peter Drucker, “social ecologist.”

Not All New Ventures Qualify

So, for Drucker, not everyone who starts a business is necessarily an entrepreneur. To be entrepreneurial, “an enterprise has to have special characteristics over and above being new and small. Indeed, entrepreneurs are a minority among new businesses. They create something new, something different; they change or transmute values.” Drucker also shows us that an entrepreneurial enterprise need not be a for-profit venture as evidenced by the rise of the social enterprise that employs entrepreneurial approaches to creating new value.

While many things may have changed since Drucker wrote this book, the fundamentals still hold true—the practice and principles of innovation and entrepreneurship can be observed, studied, learned, adapted, and practiced in a systematic way.


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