About a thousand years ago, before the first companies began operations, our great forefathers were all entrepreneurs. Really? How come, huh? They were farmers, fishermen craftsmen, artisans, storytellers, blood letters, etc.
Thus, this means that we are all born with the ability to become entrepreneurs in whichever field of specialisation we choose. Great entrepreneurs have come to an agreement that the so-called entrepreneurial gene is in the DNA of everyone. Everyone is born with an entrepreneurial spark, a drive to create something, a product or a service that will fulfil them, pay the bills, and afford them some leisure as well. The only difference is that some of us nurture that spark into a flame and eventually forge a business.
If we were living in a generation where everyone has to survive on his own, by now we would have all become entrepreneurs in one field or another, surviving in different ways that we can. From our subsistence farming to hunting, commerce and trading, corporate world activities and so on. We all would survive because we all have the streak in us. What we should endeavour to do now is to work toward unleashing the innate potential in us, those we all inherited from our forefathers who usually have their own businesses no matter how small it may be.
However, the major challenge of this generation is that we have to unlearn the risk-averse behaviour that became part of our culture some 500 years ago. As information and communication technologies tear down these barriers, the world will witness a full circle as billions of people will be empowered to express their entrepreneurial genes.
Nevertheless, if a person’s background and intuition does not make him/her comfortable with risks, resilient in the face of ridiculously challenging circumstances, unreasonably optimistic about the future and instinctively inclined to put their two feet on the ground happily every morning, they are not likely to be counted in the successful column of the entrepreneurs.
The entrepreneur does not necessarily have to be an innovative thinker, but does have to think out of the box because the successful ones often have those interesting traits that seem to help them see the world differently, which is perhaps where the gene pool comes in.
In an extensive detail, Scott Shane discussed research on the issue in his book, How Our Genes Influence Our Tendency to Start Businesses. He concluded that some part of entrepreneurship is genetic and the difference in the tendency to become an entrepreneur comes from our DNA. This is true whether we think of entrepreneurs as people who are self-employed, who have started companies, who own their own businesses, or who have been involved in the firm start-up process. Even after taking into consideration the effects of age, gender, income, education, marital status, race, immigration status and genetic effects on the tendency to be an entrepreneur remained high.
In short, all measures of entrepreneurship examined by the researchers showed a solid genetic influence, even after other potential explanations were accounted for. So, perhaps, genetic factors do affect the entrepreneurial inclinations of both men and women after all.
Genetic effects on entrepreneurial endeavours must, however, be indirect. Research suggests several different mechanisms by which our genes exert their influence, including working through your activity level, cognitive skills, and personality. This suggests that our DNA might well be influencing the odds that we become entrepreneurs by affecting our ability to identify new business opportunities.
How do our genes influence the tendency to become an entrepreneur? After all, there is no start-up gene, and no babies are born knowing how to write business plans or seek venture capital. So genetic effects on entrepreneurial endeavours must be indirect. Studies suggest several different mechanisms by which our genes exert their influence, including working through your activity level, cognitive skills and personality.
It is through one’s personality that the genes exert their greatest influence on the tendency to start businesses. Psychologists have studied a variety of personality traits and their effects on the odds of becoming an entrepreneur. Now, based on the conclusion of their study, they believe that the most important of these are the OCEAN personality dimensions.
A first dimension in the OCEAN model is an openness to experience. People with this trait tend to be imaginative, creative, curious, and inventive. There are some compelling shreds of evidence that the chances of starting a business are affected by the same genes that predispose people to be open to experience, suggesting that one reason people become entrepreneurs is because they are endowed with genetically influenced levels of a trait that is useful in the firm creation process.
Another personality dimension is conscientiousness. People with this trait tend to tilt toward perseverance, persistence, thoroughness, responsibility, and dependability. Some portion of conscientiousness is inborn. Empirical research provides evidence of this idea; a meta-analysis showed that entrepreneurs are more conscientious than managers.
Extraversion is a personality trait that captures how sociable, outspoken and outgoing you are. Studies have shown that the connection between extraversion and the tendency to start a business comes from the same genetic factors.
A fourth personality dimension is agreeableness. People with this characteristic tend to be cheerful, courteous, trusting, cooperative, kind, and altruistic. Agreeable people are less likely than others to become entrepreneurs because they are not as inclined to pursue their own self-interest or drive difficult bargains.
Neuroticism is another partially inherited personality trait that influences entrepreneurship. These genes also might affect whether or not you start a business because entrepreneurs need emotional stability and a high tolerance for stress to cope with the hard work, significant risks, social isolation, pressure, insecurity, and personal financial difficulties that are inherent challenges that come with running one’s own business.
In summary, it is a reality that every man has the innate potential to become an entrepreneur and only needs the right nurture to growth these potentials.
By Ibrahim Ola Balogun