This pretty much sums up what I’ve always felt about running your own gig. When you’ve decided to stop living on the security of regular paycheck and charting out your own path into unknown, it’s all too easy to let your adrenaline do the planning.
A year or two ago I attended a university symposium on entrepreneurship at which a number of psychologists spoke. Although their papers disagreed on everything else, they all talked of an “entrepreneurial personality,” which was characterized by a “propensity for risk-taking.”
A well-known and successful innovator and entrepreneur who had built a process-based innovation into a substantial worldwide business in the space of twenty-five years was then asked to comment. He said: “I find myself baffled by your papers. I think I know as many successful innovators and entrepreneurs as anyone, beginning with myself. I have never come across an ‘entrepreneurial personality.’ The successful ones I know all have, however, one thing – and only one thing – in common: they are not ‘risk-takers’. They try to define the risks they have to take and to minimize them as much as possible. Otherwise none of us could have succeeded. As for myself, if I had wanted to be a risk-taker, I would have gone into real estate or commodity trading, or I would have become the professional painter my mother wanted me to be.”
This jibes with my own experience. I, too, know a good many successful innovators and entrepreneurs. Not one of them has a “propensity for risk-taking”.
The popular picture of innovators- half pop-psychology, half Hollywood- makes them look like a a cross between Superman and the Knights of the Round Table. Alas, most of them in real life are unromantic figures, and much more likely to spend hours on a cash-flow projection than to dash-off looking for “risks”.
Successful innovators are conservative. They have to be. They are not “risk-focused”; they are “opportunity-focused”.
Extracted from ‘The Essential Drucker’, by Peter F. Drucker