Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Who can be an entrepreneur? Part II

(Continued from part I)

In my last post on this subject I presented my reading on the Grameen Bank initiative by Muhammad Yunus and found that entrepreneurship as a yearning is innate in all and that success is relative. In this post I'd take my study further on a slightly different viewpoint.

This viewpoint is based on this article that I'd come across a few months back by Clay Shirky titled, The (Bayesian) Advantage of Youth.

It postulates that entrepreneurship is a byproduct of inexperience, youthfulness and an idea. Or in other words - it is the result of not having a preconditioned mind and an ability to unlearn some things and start from scratch.

The author argues that experience, that comes through age is all about being exposed to a set of conditions, knowing its limitations and thus calibrating oneself to 'learn' how to handle the same or a similar situation based on this learning. Now, this process of 'learning' is by nature a process that aims at minimizing risk and moving towards stability and away from unknown territory.

While such experience might be advantageous in certain situations, the author further argues that the predictable-reactionary nature that experience brings is a contra requirement to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is mostly (not all) about making that dangerous leap that the experienced might think foolish or feel scared to. A beautiful analogy based on Bayesian logic is also presented in the article.

Another interesting book that I had read was The Ten Faces of Innovation by IDEO's Tom Kelley (thanks to Jayadev). In this book the author says that in most organizations, many an innovative idea is killed by people who love to play the Devil's Advocate. The 'idea-killer' role is kinda addictive, it kinda becomes a part of you once you've made a 'kill'. Unwittingly, while you might pride yourself in your devilish skills, some bright spark might get silenced forever.

While I subscribe to the fact that youthfulness coupled with wild imagination and creativity does lead to innovation, I would also like to have it tapered slightly (only slightly) with some expert advice. Which is to say - have a young person as the key ideator but make sure he has an experienced adviser. An adviser would be the dampener, but every useful coiled spring knows the importance of damping factor! Remember the dot com vagaries (ah... thats the devil's advocate in me speaking again - hushhhh!). Am I getting too old for the game ;) ?

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