‘Some Cultural Aspects of Creating and Facilitating Entrepreneurs’

Campaign for Adventure – Risk and Enterprise in Society

‘Some Cultural Aspects of Creating and Facilitating Entrepreneurs’

 Ian F. Lewis, FRSA FInstLM

 Coordinator, Campaign for Adventure – Risk and Enterprise in Society, United Kingdom

 ‘Risk & Entrepreneurship’ Conference, Brasov, April 2010

 

Abstract: By creating a culture which supports healthy risk-taking, society benefits by creating forms of learning not accessed by standard classroom pedagogies.  Learning benefits include the development and expertise required by entrepreneurs.  This is particularly relevant in times of change when the need to support economic success and stability becomes more challenging.  This entrepreneurship extends across the social, commercial and environmental situations, and arguably is universal.  The pedagogy of healthy risk-taking is based on the precept that being a good learner requires the same attributes as a good entrepreneur – confidence, self-trust, courage, self-esteem and self-responsibility.  These are also the same attributes one would expect of a ‘good citizen’, so we might also ask 'Is a good citizen also a good learner and an entrepreneur?'

Campaign for Adventure:

“This Campaign seeks to show that life is best approached in a spirit of exploration, adventure and enterprise; to influence and better inform attitudes towards risk; to build wider recognition that chance, unforeseen circumstances and uncertainty are inescapable features of life and that absolute safety is unachievable; and to demonstrate that sensible education and preparation enable an appropriate balance to be achieved between risk & safety and achievement & opportunity.”The cultural origins of entrepreneurship:

Humanity’s spirit of entrepreneurship is great, dangerous and complex. Both failure and success offer risk.  In most societies, although often driven by material wealth, the risks extend beyond the material into communal, societal and environmental.  Successful entrepreneurship encompasses particular ethics, judgements, identification of opportunities, action and healthy, balanced, well managed risk-taking.

The skills, attitudes, knowledge and understandings which describe the behaviour of the successful entrepreneur are expected to be learnt through standard education, training and learning. However, whilst the effective learning will be easily testable, the affective will not.  It is the affective which underpins action: actually doing something – which is the true mark of the entrepreneur. Thus we could argue that we test the least valid attributes and leave the more valid untested.  A similar comment might be made of the education and training of entrepreneurs where we focus on the effective and leave the affective unattended to.  This area of affective learning, ‘Learning by Doing’, or Experiential Education is the essence of educating successful entrepreneurs. Creating the environment in which entrepreneurs thrive is also central to their success and this should be studied and actioned whilst the learning is going on.  It is to that I now turn in my capacity as Coordinator of the Campaign for Adventure, for this has been the central theme – to create a social environment where all entrepreneurs – social, commercial, environmental – are supported and thrive.  

 

There will be who will recognise ‘A nation of shopkeepers’ as Napoleon’s earlier appreciation of the English entrepreneurial spirit.  However, it was Napoleon’s Teacher, Adam Smith, who published ‘Wealth of Nations’, in the Year of American Independence, 1776, saying:

"To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers, may at first sight, appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers, but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers." 

This quotation lays the opportunity for national economic development firmly at the feet of forward-thinking governments. Adams is often referred to as the father of the Western Economies:

“…that nations attain wealth and function best where individuals are completely free to use their skills and capital (money, land, etc.) in their own self-interest and at their own discretion.”.

There is no space at all between ‘Shopkeeper’ and ‘Entrepreneur’, for both take an idea which may produce a surplus and realise it, at some risk. Today our individual shopkeepers-without-premises trade goods, knowledge, skills, services, experiences and ideas. All offer opportunities for all through the entrepreneurial mind whether, and this point I shall return to, for the benefit of the risk-taker or for the benefit of others through social entrepreneurship: the betterment of society.

Other aspects of Entrepreneurship and its links to Human Capital Theory:

Based upon the work of Schultz, (1971), Sakamota and Powers (1995), Psacharopoulos and Woodhall (1997), human capital theory rests on the assumption that formal education is highly instrumental and even necessary to improve the economic capacity of a population. In short, the human capital theorists argue that an educated population is a productive population.  According to Fagerlind and Saha, (1997):

 

 “Human capital theory provides a basic justification for large public expenditure on education both in developing and developed nations. The theory was consistent with the ideologies of democracy and liberal progression found in most Western societies. Its appeal was based upon the presumed economic return of investment in education both at the macro and micro levels. Efforts to promote investment in human capital were seen to result in rapid economic growth for society. For individuals, such investment was seen to provide returns in the form of individual economic success and achievement.”

 

At this point it is worth noting that ‘investment in education’ almost completely ignores the skills of entrepreneurship, focussing more clearly on the hard skills of the artisan with the implied position that to have these one has done what one needs to do to invest in one’s personal capital.  Yet as nations, as indeed communities and regions, the commercial skills of realising investments through dynamic entrepreneurship are ever more in demand and indeed a necessity given the global nature of competition.  Many who are trained and qualified to high levels, for example medical doctors, civil servants and academics, do not acquire the entrepreneurial spirit and thus society does not benefit optimally form the investment made. 

 

It is proposed that significant areas of deficit exist which costs nations dearly in unrealised potential.  The 9 traits which need to be present in order to realise the true potential of the investment made by our education systems are given below. Campaign for Adventure has been successful in creating a fertile social environment, lowering barriers and raising awareness of the positive nature of these traits, so they are more frequently and better applied with resultant increased success for entrepreneurs socially, commercially and environmentally. 

 

It seems important that I do not present an academic paper, for this would fly in the face of an opportunistic and risk-taking entrepreneurial culture, the basis of this Campaign for Adventure.  Better that we acknowledge “The opportunity that is recognised depends on the type of entrepreneur.” Ucbasaran et al (2001).  However, it is important to ensure we speak of the same individuals. Whilst entrepreneurs are more or less effective according to the social and economic environment in which they find themselves, they tend to have all or most of the following traits [Miller (1983), Lumpkin and Dess (1996,2005),Shane and Wenkatamaran, (2000), (Poutziouris, 2003), Aidis and Van Praag (2007), Aidis, Mickiewitz and Sauka (2007), et al.]:

  • – Action orientation
  • – Tend to see a result/solution/opportunity as well as a route to that result solution/opportunity.
  • – Strong self-belief with high self-esteem
  • – Innovative and creative
  • – Drive to Succeed, possibly a competitive drive
  • – Autonomy
  • – Motivated or at least unthreatened, by change
  • – Highly motivated by some thing and energetically pursue that thing
  • – Good at learning from experience
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  • Why create the Campaign for Adventure?

  • From Psacharopoulos and Woodhall (1997):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Human resources constitute the ultimate basis of wealth of nations. Capital and natural resources are passive factors of production, human beings are the active agencies who accumulate capital, exploit natural resources, build social, economic and political organizations, and carry forward national development.”.

Until the 1960’s, there was a sufficiency of entrepreneurs in the UK. In the 1970’s the UK had a number of ‘Post Industrial Nation’ comments directed at it, which suggested it was becoming characterised by “unrealised potential, poor judgement and narrow personal life experience.”  There was a vibrant ‘Brain-Drain’ as leaders and technology specialists left for more lucrative and benign nations, particularly the USA.  These post-industrial comments grew until, in the 1990’s, there was a realisation that the loss of these critical technologies and commercial ideas was a serious threat to the UK’s future economic success.  Within the many researches undertaken at the time, there was dramatic evidence that the emergence of a compensation culture, a passive education system and risk-aversion had created a society with little to offer the entrepreneurial spirit, causing the brightest to leave.

Action was suggested and in 2000, a one day UK national conference ‘A Question of Balance’ resulted in a call for action, a national campaign to reverse these cultural tendencies.  The result was the ‘Campaign for Adventure – Risk and Enterprise in Society’.

Those involved in managing the campaign were concerned that it had a wide footprint, influencing specifically education, science, commerce, industry, environment, government, law, community, sport, media and the arts, but leaving no area untouched.  All these areas now benefit from increased awareness of the entrepreneurial predisposition and the tremendous social advantages of applying the expertise within entrepreneurialism across the very wide spectrum that comprises human potential. 


The Campaign for Adventure –

This year, 2010, we celebrate ten years of successes.  The main themes in its history are:

  • – National Conference [Prince Philip, Tony Blair PM, BBC, Consortium of British Business]
  • – Small highly targeted meetings with ministers, social, academic and scientific institutions and all government departments.
  • – Press and media lobby – first understanding the entrepreneurial debate then requesting support, moving from overt criticism of risk-takers to balanced reporting – from attacks by society for allowing risks to exist at all, to listening for the Risk-Benefit balance to be debated.
  • – From external lobbying of the press to internal origination by press [a typical headline “Taking more risks is a healthy thing for children.” The Telegraph, 26th February, 2010]
  • – Local Authorities are advised that children’s play areas are ‘too safe for fun’, causing children to play in more dangerous and un-supervised areas, in order to meet their developmental needs and learn.
  • – Showing that society loses due to increased anti-social behaviour and abuse [drugs, depression, self-harm, violence and general antisocial behaviour] is caused through a lack of social support challenging behaviours in legitimate arenas.  The result is a lower quality of living and reduced aspiration generally.

 

Governmental Action included

  • – Parliamentary Presentation
  • – All Party Parliamentary Group [ARISc – Adventure and Risk in Society] formed
  • – Insurance Committee formed to support better understanding of self-responsibility, lowering claims and compensation expectations
  • – Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform created to better support entrepreneurs
  • – Courts – Decisions addressed self-responsibility and lowering of compensation claims where good intention and healthy risk-taking, beneficial to society, was present
  • – Laws changed – Compensation Act 2006 – increasing self-responsibility and protecting those whose intention is to do good for society
  • – Health and Safety Commission [Entrepreneur-friendly] ‘Principles of Sensible Risk Management’ Published, stating:
    • – Sensible risk management IS about:
      o Ensuring that workers and citizens are properly protected
      o Providing overall benefit to society by balancing benefits and risks, with a focus on controlling real risks – either those which arise most often or those with the most serious consequences
      o Enabling innovation and learning not stifling them
      o Ensuring that those who create risks manage them responsibly and understand that failure to manage serious risks responsibly is likely to lead to robust action
      o Enabling individuals to understand that as well as the right to protection, they also have to exercise responsibility

  -Sensible risk management IS NOT about:
o Creating a totally risk free society
o Generating useless paperwork mountains
o Scaring people by exaggerating or publicising trivial risks
o Stopping important recreational and learning activities for individuals where the risks are managed

 Some entrepreneurs stay with their specialist enthusiasm, others will move on.  The higher level entrepreneur is enthusiastic about much more.  This enthusiast is a coordinator.  If they stop, they die….