The Entrepreneurial Philosophy - with Professor Bernard Reginster

June 16, 2015

Professor of Philosophy Bernard Reginster brought an historical and philosophical perspective to the B-Lab on Tuesday, taking the summer's participants on a "back to the future" tour of entrepreneurship. Professor Reginster highlighted the non-economic value that has driven entrepreneurship for centuries and continues today. 

Professor Reginster started with this central idea:

"from the beginning, capitalist entrepreneurship has been thought to have a non-economic and non-instrumental value: a conception of what makes life good—economic prosperity (and the goods it makes possible) is only a by-product."

Using examples from a variety of sources , he provided an eclectic but similar set of themes concerning the nature of entrepreneurship:

"A businessman who does not innovate but simply behaves in traditional ways is not, strictly speaking, an entrepreneur as normally defined." — David McClelland (1961)

"Entrepreneurs innovate. Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship." — Peter Drucker, 1985

He also provided insight as to why entrepreneurship has continued to be a sustainable model for business growth and innovation.

"Economists do not ... have any explanation as to why entrepreneurship emerged as it did in the last nineteenth century and as it seems to be doing again today, nor why it is limited to one country or to one culture. Indeed, the events that explain why entrepreneurship becomes effective are probably not in themselves economic events. The causes are likely to lie in changes in values, perception, and attitude." — Peter Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1985) 


Citing psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from his popular work "Flow," Professor Reginster postulated that entrepreneurship can be equated with happiness:

"Enjoyment is characterized by [a] forward movement: by a sense of novelty, of accomplishment. ... Closing a contested business deal, or any piece of work well done is enjoyable. None of these experiences may be particularly pleasurable at the time they are taking place." -Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990)

And, so, the driving the entrepreneurial journey: "One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long... then the desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them." 

 

"One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long... then the desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them." Csikszentmihalyi