Is it a bird, is it a plane – no it’s the Entrepreneurial Man! And so is the reaction of many of us to what an Entrepreneur is. Someone who defies the gravity of a salary. Someone who is a loner, works longer hours than humanly possible and in their spare time goes on a holiday to outer space. Our perception of an Entrepreneur is that of the lonely cowboy roving the desert landscape, trying to make it on his own by defying the odds.
Is it possible that we might have a tainted perspective of who an Entrepreneur is? In a book titled “The millionaire next door” by Stanley and Danko they come to a surprising revelation: “A millionaire is a relatively boring person, who lives a frugal lifestyle and is disciplined in their investment habits.” A millionaire is someone who lives next door to you.
The same revelation has been made relatively recently about Entrepreneurship. In May 2013 Steve Blank published an article in Harvard Business Review entitled: “Why Lean Start-Up changes everything”. The article ushered in the era of the Entrepreneur as a social scientist.
Simply explained the article suggests that an Entrepreneur starts with a hypothesis. The natural next step on the journey is to test the hypothesis. As human beings there is only one simple way to do this, we ask questions. We ask the same questions until we get to certain results. If the results prove the hypothesis wrong, we have learned something – and we are one step closer to the true hypothesis.
Imagine if you will Bongani, who has worked in his job as cleaner for a leasing company. Bongani has been working in the company for the last fifteen years and is now superintendent of the cleaning team. While Bongani is working he realises that there are many leasing companies that might want someone to come in, fill the cracks in the wall, clean up the house as well as the garden and take some photos of how the place looks.
Traditional thinking about Entrepreneurship would either say – no chance Bongani is going to make it. Or if Bongani has superhuman stamina he might be able to defy the odds and become an Entrepreneur.
Lean Start-Up however would request Bongani to become a Social Scientist. It would ask of him to test his hypothesis about the solution he has in mind, while he is still employed. It would suggest that it might be possible for Bongani to limit the risk to becoming an Entrepreneur, by first running a series of experiments. Experiments that will not be driven by a desire to sell, but by a desire to know, to know if the time has come for my idea to grow.
“Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo