Neuroscience Meets the Startup Mindset+ Some Inevitable Questions

IIM Rohtak Entrepreneurship

How Entrepreneurs Think- A Clinical Study

Entrepreneurs are a class apart. Or are they? While much has been said about entrepreneurs and their way of thinking, there is very little actual clinical research done despite the hype. A very interesting piece of evidence was uncovered recently when MIT, one of the world’s most respected institutions, conducted a thorough and in-depth research into the mind of the entrepreneur- quite literally speaking.

 The Objective

The study, one of the most focused and well-structured ever undertaken, was conducted to actually verify what we have suspected all along- that entrepreneurs are indeed different from the rest of us The broad based objective of the study was to test whether individuals who were entrepreneurs had the much-needed dexterity to switch between different problem solving modes that are prevalent in the human brain. The researchers at MIT’s neuroscience department collaborated with the Sloan Business School to identify 63 test subjects who were self-described entrepreneurs and managers. The test subjects were required to engage in a game involving virtual slots. During this game, their brains were scanned for signs of strain on both sides of their frontal cortex- the section that governs cognition and problem solving. The technology used was an FMRI scan to map the neural activities.

The Results-

Not surprisingly, the behavior of the entrepreneurs were significantly different from the managers,  implying that they were indeed making more of the shifts between their explorative and exploitative skills, while at the same time, retaining their coherent, problem solving abilities.

The research proved that the entrepreneurs were not necessarily smarter than managers or that they had a higher IQ levels- however, the fact that they use their brains in a more complete way when performing decision making functions cannot be overlooked.

Clinical studies have shown that the entrepreneur’s brain is indeed, wired to think differently. However, as research shows, this is not entirely unattainable by those who wish to tread the path of becoming a first or second generation entrepreneur. With the re-emergence of entrepreneurship as a mainstream career option in the recent times, extensive researches have been conducted and have all pointed to the fact that entrepreneurship can be taught to aspiring venture builders using pretty much the same techniques and methods that business and leadership training can be imparted to M.B.A’s. Simply put, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article that elaborates on this, well-structured case studies and projects are  as much valuable to successful entrepreneurship education as they are to an MBA program. After all, the common objective is to run and manage a successful business venture while avoiding the pitfalls and hazards. ”The added advantage for management students to undertake a course in entrepreneurship is that it instills the innovation mindset while teaching students how to successfully maneuver today’s complex and rapidly changing business landscapes” ,says Aditya Malik, CEO of Talentedge, India’s leading Ed Tech Company,  which collaborates with IIM Rohtak for their Executive Entrepreneurship Training Program. “As the digital revolution gains traction among the young business managers, entrepreneurship is becoming more entwined in the overall business management model”, he says further, “There are some who believe that the best way to learn entrepreneurship is by practical experience; but is it really feasible for an entrepreneur to waste valuable time and resources on making and correcting mistakes that they can be taught to avoid altogether?”

Then there are the obvious skills that go beyond the classroom. People management, motivation, overcoming social barriers and others such are just a few of the elements. Indeed, the unprecedented success of IIM Rohtak’s Executive Programme in Entrepreneurship points out to the benefits of learning the subject even as learners come across relevant situations in their professional lives even during the course. “A substantial number of our learners are working professionals looking to start their own ventures shortly, and programs like these are what they are choosing for their final preparations even as they work on their business plans”, he says.

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