Do entrepreneurs think differently?
One of the first lessons that can be drawn from studying successful entrepreneurs is a particular habit of thought: questioning and re-assessing your present situation. It’s often remarked about entrepreneurs that they think and do things that have never previously been done. This is often interpreted as them having ‘vision’ and seen as a natural talent: something that can’t be taught. In fact, this visionary quality is often quite simple. In many cases, it’s a question of trusting your instincts and using your own experience as a powerful guide for the unrealised needs of others.
Jan Koum co-founded WhatsApp in 2009 after he realised that smart-phones and apps were likely to have a big future. In this respect, Koum was unremarkable – 100,000 apps were launched between 2009 and 2010 – but the principles that fed into the design of WhatsApp were distinct because they were drawn from his own experiences of frustration. Using the device’s phone number as an automatic WhatsApp log-in seemed obvious to Koum because he was so fed up with changing his Skype password every time he forgot it. Equally, having lived in the Ukraine as a teenager – where state surveillance of phone lines was common – he understood the importance of having secure and direct channels of communication.
This story is similar to many that we encounter when looking at the lives of entrepreneurs. Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro, developed his business because he wanted to take ‘action-shots’ whilst enjoying his greatest passion in life: surfing. Caresse Crosby (born Mary Phelps Jacobs) invented the modern bra because she couldn’t fit into a corset. The principle here is simple: if something is bothering you, it probably bothers a lot of other people as well. In some ways, it’s really a skill of empathy and emotional intelligence. This can lead to the founding of a business empire, but it can also be employed within an organisation to improve current processes and arrangements. Another myth of the entrepreneur is that you have to start a company or design a product in order to become one. In fact, the principles of innovation are useful in every walk of life. Taking advantage of a novel idea is not just the preserve of the boardroom.