Nature vs nurture
Sep 18 2012, 15:57 | By Entrepreneur
Manish Sabharwal, Co-Founder & Chairman, TeamLease
There are two myths-both toxic and wrong-about entrepreneurship: that entrepreneurs are born not made and that some cultures or religions retard entrepreneurship. At the start of every entrepreneurship gyaan session at business schools, I ask students who believe that entrepreneurs are born not made to identify themselves. Usually 80 percent of the students raise their hands without realizing the contradiction of sitting in a class for a capability they believe is genetic. I'm clear that entrepreneurship, like any other skill, is learning by doing.
The notion that some cultures or religions are fertile soils for entrepreneurship (Protestant, Western, etc.) while some are hostile (Hinduism, tropical countries, etc) is loudly contradicted by the divergent economic destinies of places with similar people divided by random boundaries; South vs. North Korea, West vs. East Germany and the case of Nogales in the US and Nogales in Mexico chronicled by Robinson and Acemoglu in their brilliant book Why Nations Fail.
Closer to home, India grew at 0.3 percent per year between 1820 and 1950 under the British. Between 1950 and 1991 our anemic 3 percent growth under socialism was called the 'Hindu rate of growth'. But between 1991 and 2012 our growth jumped to 6 percent though we didn't shoot all the Hindus! Indians dreamed small in the past because there was less to be gained by dreaming big. India and China demonstrate that countries can turbocharge entrepreneurship by deregulation (making government contacts less important), building infrastructure (low capital costs for startups), and investing in education (creating human capital).
At an individual level, there are many ways to get ready for entrepreneurship. If you know which industry you want to start your company in, get a job for a few years in it to develop intimacy and contacts. If you haven't narrowed down the industry, get a sentry/crossroads position in banking, consulting or as executive assistant to a CEO. Getting a big job in a small company is better than a small job in a big company.
Finally, expand the surface area of your mind and life by embracing diversity in reading, people and activities. Hang out with diverse people because people like you, think like you. More importantly, hang out with smart people because, as Michaelangelo said, walk with a cripple for a year and you will start limping. Stanford Professor Carol Dweck writes about two kinds of mindsets; fixed and growth. People with fixed mindsets believe that capabilities are like shoe size or height i.e. they are given and can't be changed. But people with growth mindsets believe capabilities are like muscles which can be developed by working out. Cultivate a growth mindset because that is just another word for entrepreneurship.
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