Entrepreneurship; A Trait Or An Acquired Skill?

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Entrepreneurship is something that we see in prominent figures such as Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and more. But the burning question in everyone’s heads is this – were they just born with this inherent trait or did they acquire this through years of arduous exposure, experience and practice?

While some may think that it can be an inherent talent. For the most part, many are inclined to think that it doesn’t just ‘comes’ naturally, but rather it is something acquired through years of experience. However, there are emerging studies which suggest that people can actually be born with the trait.

The breakdown from said study is this:

  • There is a 37-48 percent chance that you will be born with this trait
  • Identifying new business opportunities comes more naturally to you
  • Personality traits such as extroversion, openness can influence the likelihood of an individual being an entrepreneur

To back this notion up, here are a few thoughts on renowned professors James V. Koch and Julian Lange who holds contrasting opinions on said topic. With the former believing that entrepreneurs are born and the latter believing that entrepreneurs are made.

“Those who go into entrepreneurship programs are self-selected to begin with in terms of traits and genetics.”- James V. Koch, Old Dominion University

Entrepreneurs Are Born


Professor James V. Koch. Via: thinkcurrituck

James Koch believes that this trait is behavioural and embedded within the individual, where traits such as the ability to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty, the tendency to take risks, are all traits which either constitute or influence the likelihood of an individual being an entrepreneur. Not only that he also believes that most of these traits are heritable, and a significant portion of it is genetically predetermined.

In short, he beliefs that the decision making process of an entrepreneur is intrinsic to an individual from the very beginning; whereby no amount of extrinsic factors can influence an individuals’ risk preferences or tolerance for ambiguity.

Entrepreneurs Are Made

Professor Julian Lange

Professor Julian Lange. Via: Babson College

“What we found is that education does have a lasting influence over whether people became entrepreneurs.”- Julian Lange, Babson College

On the other hand; Julian Lange, senior professor of entrepreneurship believes that with proper education, the traits of entrepreneurship can be instilled in an individual. Through successful identification of any interest or activities which suggests some entrepreneurial tendencies, these interests can then be enhanced and converted into a larger, overarching entrepreneurial skillset. When it comes to the more personal traits of an individual such as their risk preferences, He suggests that through proper education and exposure to opportunities, individuals will be better able to make an informed decision when it comes to taking calculated risks. Even if it will not necessary change their underlying risk preferences. i.e. Even the best education will not convert a risk averse individual to an avid risk taker.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Ultimately, the contrasting beliefs that entrepreneurship is inherent and intrinsic to an individual, and one that believes that it can be acquired through proper education are obviously no two viewpoints alike. Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University and author of Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders, suggested that genes are deterministic of how likely an individual is to excel in his career or how much money he will earn. It is basically, in a business context, a way of saying some are born leaders, and some are born followers.

However, in a time and age where societal norms and beliefs argue that anyone can achieve their goals and dreams through hardwork and education, there has since been an increasing call on the feasibility of entrepreneurial education as an alternative form of education. Read more on our aforementioned professor’s thoughts to find out what they truly belief in their viewpoints.




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