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FINDINGS

Entrepreneurs are not carbon copies of each other.  Nor do they all exhibit precisely exact characteristics.  Yet there is surprising similarity in a lot of what they do, and in how they go about doing it.  Here are some of those common patterns.
 
They Actively Bank Experience

Entrepreneurs understand that experience is the best teacher.  They actively bank experience.   They make frequent deposits and withdrawals; they become habitual explorers, discoverers, assessors of their surroundings; they learn with a need to know; they become geographically, physically and mentally mobile.  It's here that they learn their fundamentals in dealing and what counts.  It's here where the strange becomes more familiar and comfortable.  They come to know their core competencies and core values.  As well as learning special personal abilities, they learn a special knowledge of technologies, processes, products, markets, systems, and industries.  This exploring approach becomes a life–long habit.  They see themselves in an opportunity–filled universe.  To entrepreneurs, the fat lady never sings.  The process keeps repeating and enriching with still more opportunities.  They are incurable.

They see experience as an adventure.  It's enjoyable.  The process holds interest and the results net more understanding, insight—and toughness.  Every new exposure they have is tucked away with a utility focus.  A familiarity of patterns develops.  Their gained mastery results in an instinctive execution, allowing competencies to be continuously stretched, and holding behavior within boundary limits. Their experience allows them to continually seize opportunities and spring upward in the organization, or outward in establishing new enterprise.  They carry an experience ATM on their hip, and draw from it appropriate skills as quickly as a gunfighter draws leather.

Unmistakably, it's rich experience that rockets rookies into the entrepreneurial ranks.  They become credible and are seen as such.  In addition to the know–how they have gained, they now know–who, know–where, know–what, and know–when.  When they spot and seize their opportunities, they know–why.

Their mastery of fundamentals, through experience, permits improvisation of action far beyond the ordinary—intuition, applied!
 

They Systemically Think and Act.

They see forest and trees and how variables impact on each other; they continually conceptualize and adjust ends, means, values, and circumstance.  They have an intrinsic awareness that all four of these decision dimensions are variables—that each is a partial determiner of the others.  They bring all four variables into harmony in a universal perspective for proper functioning. This universal perspective is the basis of vision, its implementation and modification.  It's this fluid view of the variables that allows entrepreneurs to function so well.  They are expert at determining ends, in fashioning means, in shaping circumstance, and understanding their value limits.  They can pencil their mission on the back of an envelope.

They put environment, resources, people, events, information, and technology into an understandable perspective.  They comprehend the policies, procedures, and rules of a system— and know when and how to stretch beyond given limits, and when to strictly adhere.  In short, they understand how the system works, and how to work the system.  Their global view opens up horizons where they see an opportunity–filled environment presenting choices rather than restrictions.  All systems are "go".  Therefore, they operate with an eye on the future with confidence and optimism.  The truly great understand that their actions create a climate of means for all others in their domain.  They manage a positive image to keep total integrity positive.

This grand view perspective, more than anything else, separates mom and pop in the family store from Hewlett and Packard in the family garage.
 

They Continually Test Limits.

 They continually test their own abilities and willingness to act.   They also test the limits of their constituencies and adversaries to determine the boundaries of execution and play.  They test to see how far they can go—and when they have to be conciliatory.  They push allies to test their abilities for development and to know their limits of support.  Further, they test the level of the playing field to determine which way it slants, and how to slant it in their direction.  They need to know all the elements and limits of play.

It's important to remember that entrepreneurship is not the usual game, with rules that establish fairness.  The basic intent of opportunity pursuit is not only advantage, but unfair advantage.  It's generally recognized that unfairness can be established by control of critical resources, patent protection, trade secret, or trade mark.  Entrepreneurs, too, know that it can be established by post position,  jumping the gun, and simply playing smarter and sharper.  They want to be first; they want to be right; they want to have the winning team.  They also know that besides being very able and very willing, there is still plenty of discretion in values that can really make or break the outcome.

Entrepreneurship is played in an action arena.  The world of action is different from the world of observation.  In action, you're caught up in the play.  You do what's necessary to win.  It's a game played on the edge, tempting you at times to cross over.  But it's wrong and destructive if your opponent does.  One thing is certain—action–tested values are far removed from articulated values. Repeated testing brings them closer together where conscience can truly play a role in determining limits.

(Author's note:  In my reading, I have run across two quotations which aptly fit testing limits:  "The world is full of people who believe men need masters" (Gardener, 1961); and "For those who desire to mold the world, a thoughtful providence has added the illusion of the ability to do so" (Galbraith, 1971)).  These quotations are worth reflecting on  to regain a lost perspective.)

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