How are entrepreneurs wired differently?

It is widely accepted that entrepreneurs approach life in a different way to most people, but what is it that enables them to come up with unique and innovative solutions to problems?

As Ingrid Vandervelt, CEO and founder of the Empowering a Billion women by 2020 movement, once said: "Entrepreneurs are barrier breakers whose optimistic view of the world combined with their creative thinking has the ability to address even the toughest of challenges, including the government’s approach to innovation."

But where does this mindset come from? Practitioners have long claimed that entrepreneurs’ brains are wired differently and in fact, there are now studies that support this theory.

Neuroscientists and business school scholars from Italy and Switzerland teamed up to look at how entrepreneurs’ brains differ from managers’. They used an fMRI to capture images of the brains of both entrepreneurs and managers who undertook a task that required them to look for alternative approaches to solving a problem – something that academics call ‘exploration’.

They found that entrepreneurs were significantly more likely to use the right side of their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with creativity) than managers, who tended to only use the left side, which is related to logical thinking.

Three misconceptions about entrepreneurs that prevent success

But why is it that the two groups responded to the problem differently? One of the authors of the study said that it could be due to the different experiences of entrepreneurs and managers that leads them to think differently. Entrepreneurs routinely face situations where they are required to approach problem solving in different ways, whereas managers could be more likely to face similar problems time and again.

It could also be that entrepreneurs approach the problem differently simply because their brain is hard-wired to use creativity.

What are the characteristics that make entrepreneurs?

The study’s authors acknowledge that some people are born with a tendency to be creative and that these people may be more attracted to entrepreneurship than management.

But where does this ‘hard-wiring’ come from? Apparently the answer is in the genes. A study carried out by the University of Cyprus looked at more than 3,000 British twins and found that the same genetic factors that account for having a ‘creative personality’ also make those people more likely to identify new business opportunities and start businesses.

While there’s obviously nothing you can do to change your genes and make yourself have a ‘creative personality’, entrepreneurship is not 100 per cent down to genetics – nature and nurture both matter. And as scientists learn more about the way that our brains work, it’s becoming clear that the brain can be ‘rewired’ to improve success.

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