An Entrepreneurial Society

An entrepreneurial society is one in which “innovation and entrepreneurship are normal, steady, and continuous.” See Peter Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship 313 (reprint 2014) (1985). On a more micro-level, this requires “executives in all institutions [to] make innovation and entrepreneurship a normal, ongoing, every day activity, a practice in their own work and in that of their organization.” Id.  Those building on Drucker’s 1985 work have determined that there are three preconditions necessary in order for “the entrepreneurial society to properly take hold:” means, motive, and opportunity. See Julian Birkinshaw, The 3 Preconditions for an Entrepreneurial Society, Harvard Business Review (Aug. 18, 2016),

As to means, these researchers believe that the proliferation of cheap and accessible technology provides us with ample means for an entrepreneurial society. Id. For example, a freelance worker needs only “an internet connection and a service to sell,” and a taxi driver needs only “a car and a GPS.” Id. As for motive, drawing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they posit that the post-Industrial Revolution era led to salaried jobs, which allowed many to stop worrying about many of the lower rungs, and to focus on self-actualization–the top of the pyramid. Id. 

Finally, as to opportunity, they offer that “[n]ew technologies and economic and social changes have opened up vast new opportunity areas,” and that the “social acceptance of entrepreneurship has also improved.” However, they also note that entrepreneurs are subject to many obstacles, such as employment law, intellectual property rules, and the like, noting that “the institutions that govern capitalism are still stuck in the late 19th century.” Id. 

Is this a good thing? From the point of view of a single entrepreneur trying to put their new company on a rocket-ship trajectory, probably not. However, from a macro societal perspective, it is not so clear. Our system of law and regulation has almost always lagged behind the marketplace and technological developments by years, if not decades. Although this may frustrate some, it is a natural byproduct of at least two aspects of our system. First, our tripartite representative republic ensures that powers are separated–an important safeguard, but one that, of course, sacrifices some efficiency in search of protection against unlimited power in one man’s hands. Second, our common law roots means that our judicial doctrines develop gradually and over time. Although these two aspects may frustrate some entrepreneurs, and although they are not perfect, it seems unlikely that anyone would be willing to abandon them in search of a perfectly and instantly reactive system of governance. (Which comes with its own series of unintended consequences). Improvements can certainly be made, but they too will come gradually.

Thus, although we may have most of the requirements for an entrepreneurial society, it is unlikely that we will ever have an obstacle-free opportunity precondition for such a society. I doubt that this means that we cannot have an entrepreneurial society. Rather, I believe it means that entrepreneurs will need to work to overcome and work around these obstacles in the most efficient way possible.

One thought on “An Entrepreneurial Society

  1. The obstacles that entrepreneurs face sometimes create new opportunities, just as unsolved problems can become opportunities. Because creativity works well for entrepreneurship, it is possible for entrepreneurs to work around the obstacles they face – and it is a good thing as well.