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To what extent does entrepreneurship require a special talent?

When analysing whether entrepreneurial talent is required for entrepreneurship, one can examine whether this talent is innate, developed over time, or both. Schultz (1990) believes entrepreneurial talent is “based on innate and acquired abilities to deal with uncertainty and to benefit from disequilibria” (Ferrante, 2005, p.166), thus suggesting both. Lucas’ model assumes talent as innate, in addition to Schumpeter (1911), who defines an entrepreneur as someone who “explores the unknown” (Guiso and Schivardi, 2005, p. 2-3), thus rendering entrepreneurship unlearnable. Indeed, one must also consider factors affecting entrepreneurial talent including education, previous experience or background (Ferrante, 2005). Meyers et al. (2013) conclude that there are multiple ways to define talent, including innate and acquired.

The rational choice perspective, reflected in Quadrant II of Waters’ (1994) matrix, highlights an objective and individualistic approach to entrepreneurship (Mole, 2018a). This focuses on an individual acting in support of their own rational self-interest and involves some form of calculation. Though much of this perspective is based on quantifying outcomes, it includes minimal literature on measuring an individual’s entrepreneurial talent, as this appears less easily quantifiable and more subjective. Jovanovic (1982) however, introduces a ‘talent’ element by stressing a need to analyse not who enters self-employment, but rather who remains in entrepreneurship. He suggests that some individuals have more entrepreneurial ability than others, enabling them to be more profitable with their venture, but highlights that this ability may take time to uncover (ibid.). One could argue, however, that rational choice theory exhibits limited support for the need for entrepreneurial talent.

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The interpretive/biography perspective focuses more on understanding the individual and how they allocate meaning and interpretation to behaviour (Mole, 2018c). This perspective is reflected in the constructionism quadrant of Waters’ (1994) matrix, highlighting an individualistic and subjective approach (ibid.). As mentioned previously, Bhide’s (2000) interviews of the fastest-growing US start-ups suggests some justification for entrepreneurial talent. He suggests that skills and abilities of the individual entrepreneur play a role in start-up success, specifically noting these as a differentiating factor amongst those with limited capital (ibid.). He lists qualities including, but not limited to, resilience, adaptability to new circumstances, and a high tolerance for ambiguity. Blanchflower and Oswald (1998) found that raising capital ranks a primary problem for many founders, therefore, talent (reflected by the traits above) appears important for entrepreneurship. Additionally, one may analyse comments about Sabeer Bhatia (founder of Hotmail.com) on Wired.com’s article (Bronson, 1998). Stakeholder comments about Sabeer include “an unquenchable sense of destiny”, “tremendous vibe of passion” and “an unrelenting conviction”, all of which helped Sabeer secure required funding. These traits may arguably be those present in a naturally-talented entrepreneur, thus rendering Sabeer special and not just lucky. Additionally, Simon Woodroffe, founder of the Yo! brand, argues that investors select projects largely depending on the founder him/herself (Mole, 2018c).

Finally, the psychological approach to entrepreneurship reflects the individual and how they choose entrepreneurship, become entrepreneurs and succeed in being entrepreneurial (Baron, 2004 in Mole and Ram, 2011). Collins et al. (2004) conducted a meta-analyses on the relationship between achievement motivation and entrepreneurial behaviour, highlighting the role of motivational traits in determining who becomes entrepreneurial. Drawing upon Kerr et al.’s (2017) review of recent literature on entrepreneurial personality traits, one can conclude that whilst there are multiple traits that appear common across entrepreneurial populations, there is no one-size-fits-all personality type. Selected characteristics include Costa and McCrae’s (1992) Big-5 model (OCEAN ), locus of control, need for achievement, attitude to risk, self-efficacy and innovativeness. Findings suggest that entrepreneurs exhibit higher levels of openness, conscientiousness, and attraction to rapidly changing environments. Additionally, entrepreneurs display higher self-efficacy and an increased likelihood to have an internal locus of control (ibid.). Finally, evidence supports that individuals are more likely to pursue entrepreneurial ventures if they have a higher need for achievement (nAch) (as conceptualised by McClelland, 1985). McClelland suggested that those with a high-nAch enjoy assignments that require “skill and effort, provide clear performance feedback, and were of moderate challenge or risk”, all of which are closely linked to entrepreneurship (Collins et al., 2004, p.2). Furthermore, Frese and Rauch (2007) investigate how certain personality traits influence the decision to create a business, including “stress tolerance, need for autonomy, and [a] proactive personality”. Finally, whilst Kets de Vries (1985) ‘dark traits’ of entrepreneurs may exhibit negative connotations, they still constitute the make-up of multiple entrepreneurs. He argues: “personality quirks [may be] responsible for their drive and energy and are important factors in making them so successful”. Summarizing these findings, one is convinced that a set of abilities/traits exist as a common theme linking entrepreneurs.

Other essay:   About entrepreneurship

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