I am often asked about the source of entrepreneurship. Is it inherited? Can it be nurtured? Clearly, there are natural-born entrepreneurs just as there are hypertalented ballplayers and opera singers. But I believe that each of us, to one degree or another, has a natural predisposition to be an entrepreneur.
Evolutionary biology tells us that those of us who are here today have survived because we have superior adaptive skills, the hallmark of any good entrepreneur. The common gift of humanity is that we are all hard-wired to solve problems by creating new solutions. But then why aren't there more entrepreneurs?
In the U.S., at least, I think the answer is that the prevailing system of management, carefully maintained by corporate America, gradually suppresses our natural economic instincts. Let's remember that this system grew out of the military, which was pretty much the only large-scale structure to which postwar corporations could look for an organizational model. That model worked well, for a generation or so, because veterans were accustomed to it. As GIs, they had been trained to complete the tasks that were put in front of them and not to question orders or instructions. It didn't hurt that there was so much money to be made back in those days, and that American business faced decimated competition from overseas.
Starting in the late 1960s, however, the system's flaws were exposed by foreign competitors and by advances in technology that enabled self-starters to wrest control of important information away from the powerful few. The corporate system was strong enough to endure but not to dominate. Which brings us to today. As editor-at-large Michael S. Hopkins argues in this month's witty and engaging cover story, there has never been a better time to be an American entrepreneur. Our political, cultural, and economic power brokers may have as yet failed to sufficiently organize sources of capital and the ecosystem of support. Nevertheless, conditions are such that the entrepreneur in all of us can claim his or her entrepreneurial birthright. Many will come up short. That's Darwin for you. But a greater number of us are going to take a crack at entrepreneurship, and the winners will dazzle all the more.
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