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Entrepreneurs: are they born or made?

Innovation expert Brian Quebengco explains how entrepreneurs come to be

By: Brian Quebengco | Aug 01, 2011 21:00 pm

Becoming an entrepreneur is by far one of the most complex human processes you could undertake, for it involves discovering your leadership style, ability to influence followers, timing, resources, technology, history, luck, and a few things that have not yet been thought of yet.

However, like other complex phenomena and processes, it’s only when they’re broken down to their essential parts that the inner workings could be understood. This kind of understanding has spun programs in the different universities in the form of academic degrees.

For decades, our forefathers in entrepreneurship managed to grow and learn by sheer experience. Some of it is practical. For example, a novice entrepreneur will learn that it’s important to find the quickest way to make a profit without compromising the end dream, or that he could focus on direct selling rather than spend on mass advertising. Some of it is also conceptual. A good example is self-awareness—over time, each of us becomes more and more aware of what we really are. And although this process is not always smooth, we eventually figure out what suits us best.

But like any activity that happens naturally, at some point a smart person would sit back and formalize all his accumulated knowledge into a sequence of steps that, if followed, would lead to performance. To illustrate, after studying entrepreneurs, we realize that they start with a probable opportunity. They prepare a detailed business plan afterwards. Then, they slowly build a team. Then, they pitch their business idea to investors, and so on. In short, follow this sequence of steps, and you would probably be an entrepreneur.

Having a sequence of steps prevents trial-and-error, and allows the would-be entrepreneur to incorporate directly into their performance the best practices of the best performers in the field. This is designed to make the secrets of the best easily transferable. But this is as far as many universities in the Philippines could go in teaching entrepreneurship.  While a sequence of steps would help you perform, they do not help you excel—there are some activities that, almost by definition, defy being broken down into steps.

In teaching entrepreneurship, an analogy to art school is appropriate. Art schools don’t create artists; they teach natural artists about brushes and paint and style. To become a successful entrepreneur, you must therefore understand and become aware of your natural talents, and combine them with learning. The best universities could do is to give a set of tools to young people who think they are entrepreneurs and help unlock their entrepreneurial energy.

So, can entrepreneurship as a discipline be taught and mastered like any other? While techniques of entrepreneurship could be “taught” (or more correctly, “learned”), educators cannot create entrepreneurs. This is not to say that programs for entrepreneurs do not have a place in school curricula; it must be recognized, however, that these programs have boundaries.

Although there is no such thing as an entrepreneurial gene, there is such a thing as a predisposition to certain entrepreneurial behaviors. But even if you are predisposed to become an entrepreneur, you are not preordained— learning and leading must go hand-in-hand for you to achieve your full entrepreneurship potential.

There are many paths to start the journey, as there are entrepreneurs willing to try. The way to reach a desired outcome differs for every entrepreneur, even as the end remains constant. Our personalities lead us to seek particular opportunities that eventually lead us to unique paths in life. In turn, the experience one accumulates in these unique journeys, whether encouraged or not, affects ones personality and future behavior. It is then clear that personality has both an inborn component and an environment component. And that is why entrepreneurs are both born and made.

Universities in the Philippines should therefore look beyond creating cookie-cutter programs designed to fit everyone. The programs should allow each potential entrepreneur to freely pursue their passion, whether right or wrong. Becoming an entrepreneur is not about enrolling in a college program nor is it even a way to finding work. Being an entrepreneur is a way of life, having a deep desire to survive in an uncertain world. You are not driven by motives alone, but by the motivation of fulfilling a deep, deep desire. This is the one thing that cannot be taught inside a classroom. Successful entrepreneurs come in different shapes and sizes, and many of them did not go to entrepreneurship school. Learning is not a period in life; it is a way of life. And this is our life as an entrepreneur

Editor's note: Brian Quebengco the founder and chief inoventor of Inovent Inc., the only Philippine industrial design firm accredited as a member of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. He is a part time professor at DLSU teaching Innovation Technology & Entrepreneurial Psychology. He is also a motivational speaker on entrepreneurship, inovention, and strength psychology. He can be reached at [email protected]

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