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Entrepreneurial Smarts: Learned or Born?

For decades, organizations have pondered over how to encourage entrepreneurship. Countless academics have attempted to analyze what makes the difference between entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Despite a mountain of PhDs, they haven't come up with much.
Several studies have found that those with higher IQs were more likely to be self-employed. And Scott Chase, who teaches entrepreneurial studies at Case Western, has argued recently that "The average person who works for herself is more intelligent than the average person who works for others, but she doesn't do as well in school."

Entrepreneurs: Smarter or Intolerant?

For what it's worth, I think that smarter people may find it harder to fit into conventional, often hidebound and slow-moving organizations. (Put another way, this could be a way of saying that they're less tolerant.) But smarter people may be more confident too - which will make them feel more willing to embrace the risk of working for themselves. What I do know is that the qualities required for entrepreneurship are shared equally by men and women -- and no, they don't have to be young.

In the end, I don't think intelligence has anything to do with entrepreneurship. Whether or not you decide to go into business for yourself is more often a function of the experience you've found in corporate life.

  • Were your ideas listened to? Were you treated with respect?
  • Did you feel that your job gave you the capacity to change what you saw around you?
  • Did you feel you had any control over your organization, your peers or the business you were in?
Most of the hundreds of entrepreneurs I've interviewed have answered 'no' to all of those questions. Why did they become entrepreneurs? Not because they were smart or stupid - but because they were enraged. Like so many people, they had a burning desire to do a great job; they just couldn't find an environment that would let them. So the next time you run into entrepreneurs, don't spend too much time worrying about their intelligence. Find out which were the stupid companies they worked for that let them leave.

What do you think is the main difference between entrepreneurs and corporate executives?

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Image Courtesy of Flickr user, Nina Matthews Photography, C.C. 2.0
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