We are all entrepreneurs – but not all of us chase profit. Guest blog by David Fell

economics of enough

Redefine entrepreneurialism and sustainability may flourish…

The online Oxford dictionaries site says that an entrepreneur is

  • a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit

Wikipedia says that entrepreneurship is:

  • the process of starting a business or other organization

The Cambridge online dictionaries site defines entrepreneurialism as:

  • the skills that you need to start your own business

The ‘Small Business Pro‘ site says that the skills you need to run your own business are:

leadership skills
strategic planning skills
marketing skills
sales and customer relations skills
communication skills
people management skills
finance and accounting skills

Neither the Small Business Pro site, nor any other, is prepared to say how much of these skills you might require: and that makes sense, of course.  Each of these ‘skills’ is not only qualitative, but arranged on a spectrum: people are more or less good at each of them; and there is no template for what combination of skills, at what ‘level’, comprises effective entrepreneurialism.

But wait.  Just how ‘business’-specific are these skills?  Imagine specifying the skills required to – say – run a home or household successfully.  Or to raise a child, or children, successfully.  Or to look after a large garden.

And if you find yourself looking through the list of skills you need ‘to run your own business’ and thinking “Well, I can’t see how that skill is relevant to looking after a large garden”, then recall or imagine a business entrepreneur of your acquaintance and ask: is there at least one of these areas where the person I am thinking of is singularly crap?

So I wish to re-cast the notion of entrepreneurialism as:

  • the process of deploying finite resources in pursuit of a goal where there is a genuine risk of failure

Which is by way of suggesting that entrepreneurialism is a skill-set universally present in the population, and which, as a result of its compound nature, is distributed in an untidy spectrum from ‘low’ to ‘high’.

And why this might be of any use whatsoever?  Two reasons:

  • it would signal a broader notion of ‘reward’ or ‘return’ or ‘success’ than merely profit
  • it would include and legitimise a much wider set of people within the group upon whose resourcefulness and creativity our collective prosperity depends

If, as I suspect, the concept of ‘entrepreneurialism’ is a key node in the complex, open system that is our economy (or, to put it another way, it is a particularly important commitment device in the interlocking set of rules determining the operation of capitalism) then a change of this kind has the potential to have far-reaching effects – effects that, I further suspect, would be very much consistent with the notion of sustainability.

So if you’ve ever thought haughtily about housework, or gardening or parenting – think again.

David Fell – Economics of Enough
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