February 4, 2011 11:25 am

Something for the weekend

What makes a great entrepreneur? What is about them that makes them stand out in the crowd? Ambition, creativity and a resilience to risk are all part of the recipe, but these are traits that cannot be taught at business school.

A Darden professor has tried to approach this from a different angle. By attempting to discover how entrepreneurs think, Saras Sarasvathy hopes to be able to transmit this knowledge to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Prof Sarasvathy, associate professor of business administration at Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia approached US entrepreneurs, who had at least 15 years entrepreneurial experience, had started multiple companies which had both failed and succeeded and had taken at least one company public.

After listening to them at length talk about problems they encountered as entrepreneurs she concluded that successful entrepreneurs are improvisers who rely on what she describes as effectual reasoning to attain their goals. These entrepreneurs she says “assess how to use their personal strengths and whatever resources they have at hand to develop goals on the fly, while creatively reacting to contingencies”.

Corporate executives on the other hand rely on causal reasoning – they set a goal and then seek ways to achieve it.

With many MBA students about to step up their job search ahead of graduation, new research reveals that the glass half full approach is more likely to land you the job of your dreams.

Associate professor Ron Kaniel and his colleague David Robinson, a professor of finance both at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University in collaboration with Cade Massey, assistant professor of organisation behaviour at the Yale School of Management, have discovered that an optimistic outlook on life correlates with improved career prospects. Optimists spend less time looking for a job and once they secure one are more likely to be promoted ahead of those with a more pessimistic disposition.

Moreover say the writers optimists tend to be more flexible in handling tricky situations.

“Optimists are more willing to disengage from unrealistic courses of action and re-engage in more practical ones: they are more willing to adapt and this seems to be part of the reason for their success,” says Prof Massey.

The research findings have been published in a working paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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