Monday, August 11, 2008

Entrepreneurship, the Questions We Ask

Sunday I sat in on a wonderful symposium. Six different professors discussed questions they are interested in researching in the future (or are presently working on) related to the field of entrepreneurship. One talked about the difference between entrepreneurs who "discover" opportunities versus "create" them. Another talked about how researchers in the ENT field have a rare opportunity in business scholarship to experiment since they can actually work with new ventures and see the outcome of their suggestions. Then one talked about how entrepreneurs benchmark themselves, how they handle perceived success and failure, and how those things change over time. Another talked about how he wants to analyze what nurtures entrepreneurial opportunities. Then one talked about how research needs to be more global in this field. The last one talked about how entrepreneurs grieve for failed businesses and how they cope with that grief.

What a list, right? I enjoyed every minute of the discussion, and I went up to speak to the last professor because I could really relate to what he was talking about. I've been exposed to a lot of grief literature, and I could see the correlations he was drawing. He mentioned his plans to research disabled veterans who had overcome trauma to start businesses and how their experiences compare to entrepreneurs who started new firms after previous failures. I went up and asked him if he had considered studying executives that had been pushed out of corporate America that then became successful entrepreneurs, and I was glad to hear the man behind me say "I was going to ask the same thing." It was definitely a moment that made me feel like I belonged. I also talked to the woman who discussed benchmarking. I gave her some of my thoughts and she kept nodding and agreeing, which I found similarly uplifting.

Tomorrow I will begin sitting in on many paper presentations. I look forward to being similarly fascinated by all of this information. The best part so far is the overall feeling: I am not dumbfounded, I do not feel like the material is beyond my ability to understand. I don't get it all, but I can see how I would be able to in time. I feel a sense that I can belong to this work. And then I can make it my own.

-- Robert


Natasha Becoming Something said...

I would enjoy this too. I'd be interested in the discussion on what nurtures entrepreneurial opportunities. I'm interested in a study that analyzes the success of businesses to find the most contributing factors to the success of those businesses. Is it "luck"? A helping hand? Good connections? A natural brilliance on the part of the entrepreneur? Or all hard, hard work?

Do you read Seth Godin? I love him.

Robert said...

I do not know Godin's work. As for determinants of success, that's HUGE can of worms. Any or all of those things can play a role. The sad fact is that a lot of them can exist and still not lead to success. Meanwhile others can find success without a lot of them by being "lucky" in the eyes of many. I am enjoying the broader definition of entrepreneurship here, though, as "opportunity seeking" rather than "new venture creation." It characterizes what the spirit of entrepreneurship is more than the narrow field of building a business specifically. My other posts cover this somewhat, so hopefully I'm starting to make more sense as I go along here.

Natasha Becoming Something said...

Well, you should check him out. Purple Cow was a great book. His blog is great. I think it's And he's the founder of, I think.

Robert said...

I'll add it to the list that is about to become extensive. I asked two or three people to give me what they consider the list of important works in the area I now see as my future research.