Personality and Entrepreneurship: Why are some people more entrepreneurial than others, and why should you care?

Imagine a world without Starbucks, Google, and Amazon. Surely it’s not that difficult: all you need is to remember your life 10 or 15 years ago. But can you imagine going back to those days of bad filter coffee, lack of information, and wasted hours in department stores? Moreover, do you remember life before the internet, cell-phones and computers? And yet, before these products transformed our lives, they existed only in the mind of a few visionary individuals – proactive people with an appetite for progress and innovation, and an eye for opportunity: entrepreneurial people.

So far, psychologists have failed to explain why some people are more entrepreneurial than others, but the answer is straightforward: personality. Indeed, individual differences in creativity, ambition, and risk-taking explain why some people have much more potential for entrepreneurship than others, and valid personality measures can help us identify who the entrepreneurs of tomorrow will be. Of course, there are also socio-political factors contributing to entrepreneurship, which is why it is a lot harder to be entrepreneurial in North than in South Korea, or why unemployment may actually foster entrepreneurship. Still, in any country at any given point of time there will be more and less entrepreneurial people and a country’s economic and social development is much more dependent on the former.

Interestingly, people with the same ability profile (equally smart, competent and educated individuals) can show dramatic differences in entrepreneurial potential: some may be motivated only by their personal career success and “sell their souls” to big corporations, whilst others will do whatever they can to work for themselves and “be their own boss”. This difference highlights the rebellious, impulsive and risk-prone nature of entrepreneurial people compared to their less entrepreneurial counterparts, but there is also a difference in ability: entrepreneurial individuals see more opportunities, make more connections, and produce more novel ideas, than their less entrepreneurial peers, and this ability is not measured by typical IQ tests. It would seem, then, that the essential force underlying entrepreneurship is the desire and ability to invent something new, something that has the potential to improve the lives of many others (not just one’s own) and add value to society.

Although when we think of entrepreneurial people we tend to think of successful businessmen, creating a business is neither necessary nor sufficient for entrepreneurship, just as being a manager or politician by no means a sign of good leadership. In fact, most managers and politicians are terrible leaders, and most businesspeople lack any talent for entrepreneurship. Likewise – and perhaps more importantly – you may have great potential for entrepreneurship even if you never set up a business. You only need to read the biography of any great entrepreneur to realise that the decisive factor is not the specific business they created (that is almost anecdotal), but the personality of the entrepreneur: his/her ambition, creativity, and opportunism. Without these personality traits, you would still be drinking bad coffee, going to the library, and posting letters. This is why you should care about entrepreneurship, and why that implies caring about personality: Personality rules the world, and the more power a person has, the more important is personality. Social psychology has shown us how our lives are affected by others, but personality psychology explains why some people are much more likely than others to affect our lives. Entrepreneurship is just another process by which this influence occurs; it is (like leadership) the natural consequence of differences in personality and yet another proof that the personality of some is much more influential than others’.

So, how entrepreneurial are you? To find out whether you may be the Richard Branson or Oprah Winfrey of tomorrow, or whether you should just stick to a 9-to-5 job, just take our test!

1.   I am quick to spot profitable opportunities.

2.   People tend to think of me as highly innovative.

3.   I have a strong desire for progress.

4.   I see profitable opportunities where others do not.

5.   If I see an opportunity I jump on it.

6.   I am very forward-looking.

7.   I’m very alert to opportunities to create commercial or social value.

8.   I don’t always grab the opportunities that I have.

9.   I am highly future oriented.

10.   If there is a profitable opportunity, I will see it.

11.   I have great business ideas before others do.

12.   I usually have the innovative ideas in group tasks or projects.

13.   Even when I spot a profitable opportunity I rarely act on it.

14.   My aim in life is finding new ways to make economic or social progress.

15.   I’m generally the first to see a commercial opportunity when it appears.

16.   I see myself as highly innovative.

17.   I am very good at coming up with novel solutions to problems.

18.   It is not that I don’t see profitable opportunities, I just don’t have the motivation to do anything about them.

19.   Creating something that is useful to people and profitable to myself is my idea of perfection.

20.   I always strive to make things better for myself and/or others.

21.   I try to take advantage of every profitable opportunity I see.

22.   I always know when there is a “gap in the market” for a new product or service.

23.   There is little point in trying to find new ways of doing something if old ways work.

24.   I often fail to act on valuable opportunities.

25.   I rarely think outside the box.

26.   I like following accepted procedures at work or school.

27.   I rarely act on profitable opportunities, even when I believe they can benefit me or others.

28.   I am very creative.

29.   I rarely recognize valuable opportunities unless they are really obvious to spot.

30.   I constantly strive for progress and want to change things for the better.

31.   I find opportunities stimulating and I feel the urge to pursue them.

32.   I find it easy to apply my creativity to everyday life.

33.   With regard to work matters, I tend to lose sight of the big picture and focus mostly on small details.

34.   I spend a lot of time thinking about my future goals.

35.   When I see an opportunity I take control and make things happen, rather than just wait for things to occur.

36.   I rarely see lucrative opportunities, even if I’m very knowledgeable in the area.

37.   I want to make a difference in the world.

38.   I would be more upset if I missed a chance than if I invested time and resources on something that didn’t work out in the end.

39.   I rarely use my creativity to solve everyday problems.

40.   When it comes to exploiting opportunities I am often too cautious.

41.   I find it hard to come up with ideas for making money.

42.   I am rarely afraid to exploit opportunities, even if there is a risk.

43.   Even if I know how to do something, I would always try to do it in a different way.

44.   I always keep a close eye on the future.

45.   I am the life of the party.

46.   I feel little concern for others.

47.   I am always prepared.

48.   I get stressed out easily.

49.   I have a rich vocabulary.

50.   I don’t talk a lot.

51.   I am interested in people.

52.   I leave my belongings around.

53.   I am relaxed most of the time.

54.   I have difficulty understanding abstract ideas.

55.   I feel comfortable around people.

56.   I insult people.

57.   I pay attention to details.

58.   I worry about things.


59.   I have a vivid imagination.

60.   I keep in the background.

61.   I sympathize with others’ feelings.

62.   I make a mess of things.

63.   I seldom feel blue.

64.   I am interested in people.

65.   I am not interested in abstract ideas.

66.   I am not interested in other people’s problems.

67.   I get chores done right away.

68.   I am easily disturbed.

69.   I have excellent ideas.

70.   I have little to say.       71.   I have a soft heart.

72.   I often forget to put things back in their proper place.

73.   I get upset easily.

74.   I do not have a good imagination.

75.   I talk to a lot of different people at parties.

76.   I am not really interested in others.

77.   I like order.

78.   I change my mood a lot.

79.   I am quick to understand things.

80.   I don’t like to draw attention to myself.

81.   I take time out for others.

82.   I shirk my duties.

83.   I have frequent mood swings.       84.   I use difficult words.

85.   I don’t mind being the center of attention.

86.   I feel others’ emotions.

87.   I follow a schedule.

88.   I get irritated easily.

89.   I spend time reflecting on things.

90.   I am quiet around strangers.

91.   I make people feel at ease.

92.   I am exacting in my work.

93.   I often feel blue.

94.   I am full of ideas.





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