Entrepreneurship is an Art, Not a Science

Street Lights 2 photo
Street Lights 2 photo by Michael Lorenzo, Pasig, Philippines

The earliest reference I can find is by Paul Willax from 1 July 1996

Entrepreneurship is an art, not a science. The Greeks recognized that there were techniques (“techne”) that could not be explained in words, but learned only through apprenticeship and experience.

My search was not extensive, but I’m happy that the quote has been around for at least 17 years.

This is why competing advice is possible and can lead to failure and success. Even more importantly, this is why Entrepreneurship is learnt and perfected by experience.

There are subject matter experts who can teach or manage accounting, marketing, logistics, customer service, manufacturing, supply chain, procurement, finance, human resources, leadership and development, training, quality control and assurance, risk management, legal affairs, decision support, corporate governance, and even sales. However the unique mix of problems and opportunities that every business faces do not work in a reductionist, reproducible manner. What experience teaches is to be comfortable with uncertainty.

Actually experienced has taught me that when the going gets tough how to pivot and fight for revenue. I know I don’t have all the answers, I don’t even know all the questions.

Experience is a proxy for flexibility and insight. Some people, particularly those who have had success early often mistake that experience for wisdom. Nothing is more painful than thinking your previous business or entrepreneurial experience is applicable in the current circumstances only to discover that this situation is different. Successful people pick themselves up from under that misapprehension, dust themselves off and learn from the experience.

Some people learn to avoid risk altogether after a failure. While I feel a little sad for them, I totally understand where they are coming from. Failure batters the ego. That is why I celebrate the people with multiple successes. They almost certainly have failed forward along the way. That’s also why I admire successful, experienced sports people. I don’t really spend time wondering about the lucky few for whom success comes easily. I want to hear about people looking at themselves late at night, with no one else around, and deciding to get up one more time after being knocked over. That’s a cliched statement, but it’s a story I never tire of.

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