I'm sick of tests claiming that certain traits can make or break an entrepreneur.
Dozens of online articles and tests purport to reveal what kind of entrepreneur you are. Give them 20 minutes, and they will reveal your entrepreneurial category. Are you an Opportunist (Richard Branson), Innovator (Mark Zuckerburg), Darth Vader (Al Dunlap)?
The assumption behind these tests is that entrepreneurs are born, not made. As a third-generation entrepreneur, I admit it's comforting to believe I'm genetically encoded this way. I'm in. You're out. (You can stop reading now.)
But what we are really talking about here is eugenics -- identify a few desirable traits and, voila, the birth of an entrepreneur. Following this logic a bit further, we should expect to find future venture capitalists requesting a DNA sample as part of due diligence. Missing the SNPs for curiosity, risk-taking, creativity, boldness? Say goodbye to your funding!
So, let's dig into this logic. Do all entrepreneurs have these commonly cited attributes? Hardly. Many entrepreneurs emerge first out of need, such as a chronic unemployment, and grow into successful business people. Worse yet, some of these "core" traits are gender-biased. Thanks to Springboard Enterprises, a venture catalyst of women-led startups, we have learned over the last 12 years that women founders tend to be far less risk-taking than their male counterparts. It's one of the reasons why 80% of Springboard 500+ companies are still in business.
So what do entrepreneurs have in common? I think there are some common behaviors. Unlike our peers, we are willing to endure discomfort for unreasonably long periods of time. Our success often comes from our inexplicable need to stay the course until the market (luck) turns in our favor. Once our hard effort (that's table stakes) happens to align neatly with an expanding market, we look like mad geniuses... and then we clean up our entrepreneurial narrative in post.
So if there is one test that may be valid here, perhaps it's the marshmallow test. The test was part of a longitudinal study that tracked 5-year-old children after they showed the extraordinary ability to NOT eat a marshmallow for 15 minutes. Their ability to endure the discomfort of self-denial for an unreasonably long period of time -- 15 minutes for a five-year-old child is ridiculous -- corresponded to higher SAT scores and less likelihood to obesity and drug addiction.
Now that I think about it, though, I would have failed the marshmallow test miserably at 5, as would have most entrepreneurs I know, since they tend not to be the very best rule followers. Perhaps tolerance for discomfort can be learned after all.
InformationWeek breaks out its crystal ball to focus on the top challenges facing IT in 2014 and beyond -- and to offer expert insight into how to best meet those challenges. So whether you're struggling with big data performance, experiencing high anxiety about securing a rapidly proliferating portfolio of mobile apps, or just trying to keep your storage costs under control, this is the one event you won't want to miss. Register for the Trends2014 Live Event today. It happens Feb. 27 in New York.
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security EnterpriseTo learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
2017 State of IT ReportIn today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.