Monday, July 24, 2006

Passion and informed intuition key to successful entrepreneurs

I've been working on a documentary film on entrepreneurship that will be released early 2007. Last week I interviewed three exceptional entrepreneurs about what made them successful.

Passion jumped out of each of their stories. Each knew very young what their passion was and they had been studying their field for much of their lives, even though they weren't sure where their passion would take them. The informal study they did on their own was as important, perhaps more important, than the formal training they had received. Each was very curious and an avid, broad reader. One person had a high school degree, one had a BS, and one had a PhD, but this held true for each one.

Their passion had a big impact on their careers in two ways. First, entrepreneurs inherently are operating in a low data environment. They are creating something new, so there isn't much formalized information available on which to base decisions. I asked each one how they knew they were right about the market. Each looked at me puzzled, saying something like, "I just knew." This kind of informed intuition is critical to an entrepreneur's success, and it often comes from a lifetime of study of an area of passion, as it did with these three individuals.

Their passion also showed up in the people they hired. They looked for inspired individuals, people that themselves had a passion for their work. I asked how they ensured that their organization executed well. Again one looked confused by the question, answering when you hire people that excel at what they do you let them do their job. Another confused me focusing on policies and procedures. When I challenged why you hire outstanding people and then micromanage them, he said, "Oh no, they wrote their own policies and procedures. I didn't write them for them. They know more about what they're doing than I do."

Fascinating stuff. More to come. I'd love to hear your stories.

1 comment:

Tom Neil said...

In 1990, I interviewed 5 entrepreneurs in the Atlanta area, who had been nominated for INC's Entreprneur of the Year.
My goal was to discover how these individuals idenify opportunities and manage innovation. Five different industries were represented and five different approaches were identified. Yes, there was passion, which sustained initial efforts but also was used to explore ideas.
One hired an ex-IBMer to manage operations so he could innovate. One focused on developing the creativity of thinkers.
All saw opportunities from a perspective which required both divergence and similarity. Two were systematic in their search while the other three sifted ideas based on established criteria.
As to intuitiveness, it was definitely informed not fly by the pants.
The outgrowth of my research was the development of a systems approach to understanding entrepreneurial development.

Tom Neil