Entrepreneurs are born or made?


We know that a good majority of trak.in readers is made up of entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs. Recently we had a guest post that argued that an MBA degree doe snot make an entrepreneur and earlier we had Arun reporting on the anatomy of an entrepreneur and what ar eth likely characteristic of an entrepreneur.


Today, continuing the focus,  I will like to address the same issue more form a scientific and psychological perspective (one of my passions) rather than anecdotal or personal viewpoint.

The question I would expect to answer at the end of this post is what constitution of an entrepreneur can be credited to genetic factors and what to environmental ones.

First a little diversion.  To answer questions like these twin studies are used in psychology and behavioural genetics. Basically you look at monozygotic or identical twins and their trait correlation and also look at dizygotic or fraternal twins and their trait correlation and based on these compute the heritable components of the trait vis-a-vis that part which can be modified due to environmental influences or is more apt to differ between related siblings too.

Basically, in a nutshell, you try to figure out how much the trait is under nature’s influence (genes) and how much the trait is under nurture’s influence (environment).

Scott Shane, studied genetics of entrepreneurship using exactly the same method (twin studies-870 pairs of identical twins and 857 pairs of fraternal twins) )  and concluded that about 40 % of entrepreneurship is due to genetic factors and 60 % due to environmental factors.

Some researchers, like Barbara Shakian,  go even further and note the involvement of dopamine( a neurotransmitter) system in risk-taking and entrepreneurship and suggest a future where people may take drugs tailored to fine tune the dopamine activity to help become better entrepreneurs.

Another scary scenario in far-off future is people resorting to genetic manipulations of embryos to make their offspring more entrepreneurship material.

However, I personally have reservations with the implications that are drawn form such studies.  Genetic doesn’t mean inevitable and so does environmental not mean plastic and labile. The new paradigm is nature via nurture and thus flowering of inherent potential under suitable environmental conditions.

Also, those who have read ‘outliers’ by Gladwell would realize the immense impact luck/ environmental factors etc have on entrepreneurial success; one should never overlook those factors or attribute too much significance to personal achievements and credits.  If you haven’t read ‘outliers’; read it now.

In the end game, we all are given some cards , it depends on us how we play our hand well. We can play fatalistically and randomly and without applying any skill or expertise and the results would be being a loser;  or you could know your strengths and weaknesses and play your given cards strategically- there lies the road to success and happiness.

Entrepreneurship potential is born and nurtured via a supporting environment and is made into entrepreneurship actualisation by both personal agency and striving and by luck! that in a nutshell is what I believe in!

What do you believe? are entrepreneurs more born than made? and are entrepreneurs more masters of destiny rather than creatures of circumstances? Do let us know via comments.

  1. Kiran says

    Leaders are born or made…yada yada yada…

    I don’t know man…I never had fancy for such debates…and I am hearing them from Class VI…

    Good to know we are actively progressing on the genetic manipulation front in this area…that’s exactly what we needed after atomic bombs :)

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