Entrepreneurship is too big for the box we’ve trapped it in.
What is an entrepreneur today? Someone who starts businesses. If you are really progressive, it’s someone who starts socially conscious businesses.
I hope this is simply a historical accident. Because there is nothing about innovating, finding unmet needs, building teams, bootstrapping, taking risks, competing, creating value and scaling a model that’s specific to business.
Imagine a world in which business had a monopoly on these practices. We would not have many of our most successful communities, social causes, political movements, service organizations, universities and religions.
Entrepreneurship has nothing to do with business or commerce. It’s a methodology for solving problems – perhaps one of the most versatile ever made. It is a way for a few small people to bring about massive, scalable change with little or no resources.
The problem is that business has seized the entrepreneurial brand and most of the entrepreneurial-minded talent. If you like solving problems in this way, you are told that you are most likely to find your soul mates — not to mention wealth and status — in business.
Business has turned all of this talent into incredible things: the technologies and products we depend on everyday, rising standards of living around the world and the financing for critical government services, non-profits and charities.
But business’s dominance of entrepreneurial ambition has also cost us. It has deprived us of talent in many of the things that make life worth living: the communities that make us feel connected, the causes that give us meaning, the education that gives us opportunity and the spirituality that gives us perspective.
Entrepreneurs believe that these pursuits are not for them. They think they won’t like them and won’t succeed at them. And so problem solving that should be entrepreneurial — by community organizers, activists, non-profits, universities and religious leaders — is often cautious, unimaginative and unsuccessful.
How do we show entrepreneurs the opportunities they are missing? And how do we change what entrepreneurship has come to mean?
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