Entrepreneurs are indeed different from your everyday person in a number of telling ways. Not all these differences are a product of genes however. The impact of nurture is evident especially where the child is exposed to an entrepreneurial parent. Such early development and learning is highly correlated to an entrepreneurial nature. So also experience in problem solving and decision-making. The brain isn’t hard wired, at least not on this issue.
I was watching Tayo Oviosu’s TEDx Lagos talk again and I have to say, this is really one of those things that make you go hmmm. To think that if he had accurately appraised the challenges before setting out he may never have started Paga is beyond scary. Here’s a guy who’s out there executing on his vision and apparently succeeding at it yet he goes and says something like that. Is he maybe winding us up just a little bit? That’s always a possibility but he seemed genuine and sincere. Makes you think.
One thing that’s fairly certain is that even if there’s merely a thin line between bravery and stupidity, there’s one hell of a chasm between those two on the one hand, and conformity on the other. How else would you explain the reality that not everyone is working on a startup? At the very least you’d expect half the crazies in the world to be slaving away on their super idea for a startup. I guess this lack of abundant seed funding has its uses.
People have long suspected that entrepreneurs’ brains were wired differently and now there seems to be scientific proof. Findings from a study by Peter T.Bryant and Elena Ortiz-Terán show that entrepreneurs jump to action quicker than regular people. Additionally, unlike most people, they keep reviewing their actions long after they have made their move. That’s a much more plausible explanation for Tayo’s observations, wouldn’t you agree? Peter and Elena used a test based on the Stroop Effect to highlight these differences.
Here’s one [if it takes you 20 seconds or less to work through it, you’re definitely entrepreneur-material]:
Name the shapes and their related colors in the 4 x 4 aligned boxes below as fast as you can. The words below the shapes are placed there to throw you off. Do not read them! For example, you might see the words “Blue Square” printed under a red triangles. In all cases you should say “red triangle” instead. Say the colors and shapes as fast as you can. It is not as easy as you might think…
Entrepreneurs are faced with situations where they cannot afford to wait to clear up all ambiguity before taking action. In some cases, even if they had all the time in the world, they still couldn’t clear up ALL ambiguity. As a consequence, entrepreneurs will frequently dive into a situation before fully analysing it. Do not mistake this for mental laziness. Entrepreneurs keep working on problems even after they have taken action; running, refining and re-running experiments with an open mind (as much as is possible) and using the feedback to course-correct.
Lean Startup has really helped codify a lot of that sort of thinking, urging entrepreneurs to conduct experiments around their main failure points and risks. The Lean Startup feedback loop can be approached in two ways, depending on your propensity for action, and tolerance of risk. Entrepreneurs are more likely to build first whereas regular people are more inclined to learn before building.
This “shoot first ask questions later” approach has its obvious shortcomings. To compensate, most entrepreneurs develop a set of heuristics which they diligently apply whenever they are presented with new opportunities. According to Peter and Elena, entrepreneurs ask the following questions, in no particular order:
- Does the opportunity fit my core strategy?
- Do I already know the market?
- Can I trust the other parties involved?
- What’s my gut saying?
- What’s the doomsday scenario if I fail?
An unsatisfactory answer to any of these questions is reason enough to pass on the opportunity.
If you’re conversant with the origin stories of a few one-time startups which have grown into successful corporate juggrnauts, you’ll notice how so many of them muddled their way through a process very much like the Lean Startup process. All this long before Eric Ries came along and helped the rest of us wrap our heads around the apparent alchemy of building a successful startup with as little waste as possible.
Successful entrepreneurs embrace ambiguous problems more quickly. They don’t try to do too much in one go so they don’t get in too deep a hole before realising what’s going on. They devote significant time and effort to resolving any lingering uncertainty during later stages of execution. It sounds simple, elegant, almost like common sense. Do not be deceived. This is the highest form of observation, risk-taking and execution the world has ever witnessed.
Yes, Boss! Entrepreneurs Are Different From the Rest of You was first published on StartupBlackBox