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Be an Entrepreneur or Die

I just finished reading Thomas K. McCraw's short piece in the new Inc. magazine. He profiles Jospeh Schumpeter, "one of the most astute business thinkers who ever lived." I had never heard of him until this morning, but McCraw's book about him is now on my wish list.

Schumpeter was a very early advocate of entrepreneurship, believing that individual invention was what powered a capitalist economy, and not the role (or non-role) of the government. McCraw points out that while Schumpeter's ideas didn't immediately catch on in the first half of the 20th century, he now looks like a genius.

McCraw writes:

One of the hallmarks of Schumpeter's 1911 book is that he ventured into territory where no economist had gone before - namely, the psychology of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, he insisted, are not propelled solely by a wish to grow rich or by any "motivation of the hedonist kind." Instead, they feel "the will to conquer: the impulse to fight, the prove oneself superior to others, to succeed for the sake, not of the fruits of success, but of success itself...There is the joy of creating, of getting things done, or simply of exercising one's energy and ingenuity."

As someone who identifies with Schumpeter's definition, I believe that the organizations and companies that will succeed in today's economy will be those that embrace entrepreneurship at every level.

Often times, we relegate our understanding of entrepreneurship to starting a business from scratch. What once did not exist, now does. So the new coffee shop down the corner, the new landscaping service, or the new staffing agency in town all get our approval as entrepreneurial endeavors.

However, for companies looking to be able to last, and for organizations and businesses looking to recruit and retain young talent, thinking like an entrepreneur should take up at least 50% of the CEO or President's time. And it should at least take up 10% of every employee's time.

The iPod was entrepreneurial. As was Divas Nashvegas. As is a new worship service at a church. Invention within an existing business aids in the success of that business. And, it allows creativity to be valued and expected.

What can you invent today? And who is willing to invent it? What new feature can you add as part of your volunteer program to enlist newer folks? What service can your company offer that no one else has thought of?

Young people today have grown up as creators. They create online content like no one else has, posting blogs, videos and pictures online faster and in higher quantities every single day. As such, most of them don't want to spend the majority of their day in a role that does not allow them to create.

If you're lucky enough to hire a young person, and you don't want to lose them, allow them the freedom to create and dream. And listen to their ideas. They may not all be gold nuggets, but you may just have the secret to the next big thing, whether it's a new product line or your next VP of Marketing.

As McCraw asks:

Will you be the creator and developer of a new opportunity or one whose business is overtaken and destroyed by someone else, outworking you either at home or abroad?