January 12, 2009

"Entrepreneurs tend to have a singular weakness that allows them to do things without checking their conscience."

"Juvenile delinquents act and then try to sort things out afterward. I think entrepreneurs have this tendency."

Entrepreneurs don't care what you think. They're going to do what they want.

"I'm not stopping. It would be an act of shallow cowardice." Sounds juvenile delinquent-y, doesn't it? It's actually what the Segway entrepreneur keeps telling himself.

ADDED: Gordon Smith thinks entrepreneurs are too varied to be stereotyped — which is, I think, a slam on the whole idea of applying psychology generically.

63 comments:

campy said...

"Juvenile delinquents act and then try to sort things out afterward."

Althouse delinquents comment and then leave the Professor to sort things out afterward.

Original George said...

You know that we're at a bad place in the economic cycle when entrepreneurs are mocked and people look to government to create wealth.

Segways are fun, but they aren't $5,000 worth of fun. (The company has intentionally not marketed them at teenagers. Natural audience for the product.)

Ready. Fire. Aim.

Trooper York said...

Entrepreneurs realize one fact. No body else gives a shit about their business. The government loons say they do but would be happy to tax you out of existance to throw money down the endless entitlement rathole. Your customers say they do but if they can get it cheaper or better somewhere else well later for you loser. Your suppliers say they do but if you can't pay your bills they will sue you at the drop of a hat.

So as an Entrepreneurs, ya gotta do what you gotta do. No one else gives a shit. Break the rules if you have to. Don't wait for anyone else's permission. This ain't school where you have to raise your hand if you need to take a leak. This is the real world.

traditionalguy said...

Segways are the ultimate conspicuous consumption item. They win this contest because the have NO value at all except to show off that you once had $$ to throw away. This may not have been good market timing for Segway Entrepreneurs since now even rich people suddenly feel poor. Their best hope is to be approved for a medically necessary Medicaid scooter [Medicaid has NO problem with throwing away money] for use by people who are too sick/fat to walk into Walmart, but cannot be expected to sit down because of hemorhoids.

Marcia said...

Does it seem strange to anyone else that the piece refers to entrepreneurs having a weakness in common with juevenile delinquents, and also describing it as a "singular" weakness?

I'm not sure it's technically wrong to say two groups share a "singular" trait, but it seems off to me.

she said: said...

"They win this contest because the have NO value at all except to show off that you once had $$ to throw away.

Tell that to any mall cop, or airport cop. They are a little like the new world equivalent to horses. No?

Trooper York said...

Well the one thing that entrepreneurs share with juvenile delinquents is that they both would like to bang Natalie Wood.

But you can't have everything.

Trooper York said...

Obscure West Side Story gag for those of you playing at home.

Tibore said...

Slight digression. Quote from the story:

"Somebody asked the question, 'Wouldn't it be neat if I could buy lettuce online and they'll deliver lettuce to my house?'"

For a raw commodity product? Huh??

Look, people are willing to get pizza, subs, chinese, whatever delivered because they're willing to deal with the fact that part of what influences the quality of what they get is outside their range of influence. You don't get to make the pizza yourself if you were a dine-in customer at a restaurant either, so the act of delivery doesn't change what you think of the product. You simply shift your judgement of quality in other directions.

But for raw produce? Since when do you want to leave the judging of quality in someone else's hands for that? Ditto raw just about everything else? Someone who eats only Chef Boyardee or Swanson dinners might be willing to take a chance on delivery, but someone who cooks?

I think this was less "Wouldn't it be cool if I could get lettuce delivered" and more "Let's find a way to market lettuce online". The allure of "internet marketing" a product obscured the otherwise commonsensical issue of whether the product was considered a deliverable commodity or not.

End of digression.

Christy said...

Good grief, Professor! Are you trying to match Professor Reynolds post for post today?

Juvenile delinquents are high energy and looking for something new to do, always stretching their boundaries to see what they can get away with. Sounds to me like we should start business classes in Head Start (or whatever it's called these days) programs.

Marcia said...

"Someone who eats only Chef Boyardee or Swanson dinners might be willing to take a chance on delivery, but someone who cooks?"

Amazon Subscribe & Save (for some convenience foods like granola bars, also for diapers, laundry soap, ...).

Not to disagree with your larger point. I'm no great cook, but I want to choose my own produce.

Pogo said...

Increased societal wealth has only ever come from creative destruction.

Undervalue the entrepeneuer, or worse, make it impossible for him to start those new businesses, and watch the economy sclerose and then die.

People can be so goddamned stupid it makes my eyes bleed.

Jason said...

I've been to a number of large convention halls over the last few years, and I noticed the staff zipping from one end of the convention hall to the other on their Segways. For a modest investment, these large venues improved the productivity of each worker by several times over. I was amazed at how effective they were and the cost savings and productivity gains to the venue are obvious. I recall remarking on that at the time at the Orlando Convention Center in particular, which is vast.

They are invaluable for security guards in certain contexts, too, when there is a need to mass strength quickly in a short time from all over, say, a mall, or amusement park.

Those Segways will get a venue much better coverage with fewer people. Those things are a fantastic investment.

Traditionalguy, you may pull your head out of your ass now.

;)

Pogo said...

"Research by Harvard Business School psychology professor emeritus Abraham Zaleznik has unveiled a darker side to the entrepreneur's psyche."

Oh, bullshit.

Entrepreneurs often work 60-100 hours per week on their business. The only thing juvenile delinquents do for that length of time is smoke dope, masturbate, or sit in their cells and stare.

What a stupid analogy.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

I'd like to take a moment to tell people that this is one of my favorite photographs in the category "incongruous". Ranks right up there with this one.

Palladian said...

"Entrepreneurs often work 60-100 hours per week on their business. The only thing juvenile delinquents do for that length of time is smoke dope, masturbate, or sit in their cells and stare."

Sounds also like a description of the typical work day of the average Harvard Business School psychology professor emeritus.

Ann Althouse said...

"Sounds also like a description of the typical work day of the average Harvard Business School psychology professor emeritus."

Maybe some day he will get around to studying businessmanophobia.

Daryl said...

"Entrepreneurs tend to have a singular weakness that allows them to do things without checking their conscience," Zaleznik said. "Juvenile delinquents act and then try to sort things out afterward. I think entrepreneurs have this tendency."

Another academic researcher on the topic, professor Kelly Shaver of the College of William & Mary, told Forbes magazine in 2002 that successful entrepreneurs "really don't care as much" about what other people think. "They're just happy to go ahead and do what they're doing."

Let me get this straight: entrepreneurs are bad people because they ignore the voice inside them . . . and they are bad people because they do what they want and ignore what other people think? Which is it?

Make up your minds, you stupid professors. Now, professors, there's a crowd of sociopaths. They do whatever they want, and don't care what society thinks of them (only what other professors think/say about them).

Heck, professors are out to get famous by proving everyone else to be wrong. How much more anti-social can you get?

traditionalguy said...

Thank you Jason. You are right, Segways have a niche market that they have filled. What now? Maybe new and improved models. Yes Segways do serve well on open flat floors of several hundred feet in length or more. My bad.

Jason said...

Well, I would come up with some mechanism to counteract recoil so you can mount heavier weapons on them. That would be my next step.

Your mileage may vary.

Henry Buck said...

Troop,

I thought you were alluding to Rebel Without a Cause. Boy, late-mid-century delinquents sure did like Miss Wood.

I suppose entrepreneurship is like being a rebel with a cause, though.

Joe said...

Let me get this straight: entrepreneurs are bad people because they ignore the voice inside them

He's not passing a value judgment. I've started and run my own business and I know whereof he speaks. You have to have a certain recklessness to start your own business. I've also observed that the outrageously successful entrepreneur is almost always very good at manipulating the truth. This doesn't always mean they are good liars. I once sat in a meeting with a boss who never once told an actual lie, but the combination of everything he said was complete bunk (with the irony being that the rich guy we were talking to was so gullible, my boss could have said just about anything.)

Pogo said...

Segway just says "Dork".

I once saw a Segway 'walking tour' in Milwaukee. A gaggle of dorks scooting by, with dorky helmets to boot.

One guy I saw in the group made me think, He not only has never been laid, he hasn't even had himself.


"I would come up with some mechanism to counteract recoil so you can mount heavier weapons on them."
Why not just make the Segway the weapon itself, no rider, and radio control the damned thing?

ronbo said...

It's just shallow and reductive to look at an entrepreneur and see a delinquent. I've been working on a new business for almost a year, and what gets me over the obstacles is vision and determination, not poor impulse control.

AJ Lynch said...

I think slow players should be allowed to use a Segway to level the playing field in football games. That would be cool and delinquent.

AJ Lynch said...

Keep in mind, the Althouse commentariat was referred to as "delinquents" by a far left blog. From degenerate to delinquent....it is gratifying to be promoted!

author, etc. said...

One way to understand the entrepreneurial mindset is to look at the many examples of entrepreneurs who, once their dream took its commercial shape as a publicly traded company, rankled under the obligations of dealing with boardmembers, shareholders, and various company officers in a traditional corporate structure. Many cash out and quit in exasperation (or are driven out, as Steve Jobs was in his original stint with Apple). Maintaining a company is simply not as fun as creating one.

dbp said...

Segways are great and all, but can't a bicycle do the same job for about one tenth the cost?

siyeh pass said...

Segways are great and all, but can't a bicycle do the same job for about one tenth the cost?

I agree, Segways are great - took a tour of DC and it was a lot of fun. One of the differences is you can ride them on the side walk. After using them for a night, I found any further walking that trip to be way slow. I wanted to zip along.

blake said...

Singular can also mean "extraordinary".

But I think the mistake here (without reading the actual source material, which is my singular tendency) is to lump all entrepeneurs together and all delinquents together.

Juvenilles are sometimes delinquent because society demands stupid things.

ricpic said...

It would seem to me that the entrepreneur has a far higher stake in delivering a good product or service to his customers than the average citizen, whose bad behavior risks little. Going the delinquent route, short changing his customer, is a sure recipe for going out of business.

Palladian said...

"I thought you were alluding to Rebel Without a Cause. Boy, late-mid-century delinquents sure did like Miss Wood."

No, Dean was just using her as a way to get his hands on Sal Mineo.

Palladian said...

Battle Segways!

tbrosz said...

Where the heck does Prof. Zaleznik pull "conscience" from? It's not like entrepreneurs are trying to decide whether or not to run steam rollers over kittens.

I suppose to someone in academia, watching people actually out in the world of business must be like watching videos from another planet.

Ann Althouse said...

Actually, I could really use a Segway. It would probably be perfect for me as a way to get to work (a distance of just over a mile). Reasons why it would be better for me than a bike:

1. Easier to dress for work & not get clothes messed up.
2. Avoiding the dangers of falling and sharing the road with cars.
3. I don't want to make the physical effort -- especially at the end of the day when I'm hungry.
4. No messing with chains and bulky locks (but how do you keep people from stealing it?).

The main downsides are obvious:
1. It's expensive.
2. You look silly on it. (If they had caught on, I would have gotten one.)

Joe said...

I can never see a Segway without thinking of Weird Al's song "White and Nerdy"

Joe said...

Out of curiosity, do readers here understand simile and metaphor?

Original George said...

Segways are today what Pringles were in the late 1970s.

They have yet to find their audience.

I'm tellin' ya...it's teens. Teens with paintball guns.

The thing plays a funny role in that new mall cop movie comedy....don't know the title...

AJ Lynch said...

Could the movie title be "Mall Cop"?

Palladian said...

"4. No messing with chains and bulky locks (but how do you keep people from stealing it?)."

They require a key to operate. They're useless without the key, but I'd still be afraid to leave them without locking them up.

For the record, I'd love to have a Segway, but I'm conspicuous enough as it is.

traditionalguy said...

Prof, have you tried a Vespa scooter? You will also need some way to carry your Books, Papers to be graded and Laptop. And God help you if it rains unexpectedly.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Regarding "on open flat floors of several hundred feet in length or more": Actually there are Segway models with extra-large knobby tires, and carrier racks, which were clearly designed (and I've seen used) as golf-cart replacements. Admittedly, not on the hilliest of courses, but hardly flat ground.

Regarding Zaleznik's thesis: It's crystal clear he's never worked in a startup. Heck, he's probably never worked outside of the Harvard-MIT hothouse.
The founders I've worked for were usually deeply worried about the consequences of their actions, for their companies, their personal pocketbooks, and their slaving-away staffs. It was the experienced corporate types brought in to impress 2nd-round investors who were the ones lacking consciences.

Ann Althouse said...

I know it needs a key, and I too was worried that someone might steal it -- pick it up into a truck somehow.

But aren't motor scooters and motor cycles just as vulnerable?

As for "White and Nerdy," love the song, and maybe if you got into the right frame of mind, it would seem fun to be what one so obviously is.

A big barrier for me is that there's no seller within a 200 mile radius of where I live.

Palladian said...

"A big barrier for me is that there's no seller within a 200 mile radius of where I live."

Amazon, baby!

siyeh pass said...

It would seem to me that the entrepreneur has a far higher stake in delivering a good product or service to his customers than the average citizen, whose bad behavior risks little. Going the delinquent route, short changing his customer, is a sure recipe for going out of business.

Agreed. At least that's how I felt for the 15 years I owned a business. There's a real life/built in accountability. It certainly helped me raise my game.

Ann Althouse said...

traditionalguy said..."Prof, have you tried a Vespa scooter? You will also need some way to carry your Books, Papers to be graded and Laptop. And God help you if it rains unexpectedly."

No way. Too dangerous. I'm trying not to die.

Ann Althouse said...

@Palladian -- I wouldn't want to buy something that heavy, sophisticated, and expensive on line. What if it needs service?

Original George said...

The thing won't need service. It's all super high tech. Encased motor and what not.

When you leave a Segway, you take the "key" which contains a radio-chip thingie. No one can drive off with it. It's disabled. Someone could carry it away, unless you lock it, or take its handlebars.

Another downside: If you strike a hidden object, say, a rod project a few inches out of the ground, the Segway will stop. You, however, will not. You will continue moving at 5, 10, 12 miles an hour. This will hurt.

They are cool to ride, though. Like having your own robot pony that understands you and eats digital carrots. And they come with panniers for carrying grociers or dorky nerd stuff.

Original George said...

Also, the thing will climb the steepest hill and very quickly. 32 percent grade. Check it out....here. I almost bought one from the guy in the video.

Kirk Parker said...

Palladian,

That picture of the 1st Beijing Fighting Strollers is hilarious! It sure would suck to be deployed in the front, however.

Freeman Hunt said...

They were selling Segways at the Sam's Club near me last time I went.

Jonathan Card said...

This guy has it exactly backwards. Peter Drucker, who'd actually studied entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, talks about this perception. Good entrepreneurs tend to be more risk-averse than most people, not less. They see less risk in doing things a better way than the old way and they are constantly working to make sure that they are minimizing the risks that they face. This is just ridiculous.

bill said...

Joe said...
Out of curiosity, do readers here understand simile and metaphor?


Yeah, they're those little flags hanging from boat antennas.

Ralph said...

Prof, have you tried a Vespa scooter?
Everyone will think she's had a DUI.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

I've been an entrepreneur for most of the last 30 years, and I'll say categorically that you cannot survive in business if you don't care what people think. It just depends on which people.

You must understand your potential market and care what they think.

In contrast you have to ignore the dimwitted fuckwads who've never, ever had to make payroll yet wish to tell you how to run your business.

That describes at least 80% of Congress and the federal bureaucracy. Most professors, including the one under discussion, are simply over-educated fuckwads who've never had to make a payroll.

The real psychological difference is that way too many people value security far more than freedom. Entrepreneurs and citizens (as opposed to mere civilians) have it the other way about.

That difference goes back at least to Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.

Kirk Parker said...

Theo,

"I am very suspicious of anything under 500cc."

You just need the right amount (i.e. lack) of mass to go along with it. I got way too much enjoyment out of a Honda XL125S when I lived in Sudan--on dirt "roads" only, of course, but on the main ones if they were recently graded you could easily make 55+mph without scaring yourself.

knox said...

@Palladian -- I wouldn't want to buy something that heavy, sophisticated, and expensive on line. What if it needs service?

We bought our Subaru on ebay. It had to be driven down here from Massachusetts. Some risk involved, I suppose, but we got a great car for just over $3000.

knox said...

Funny mental image: Althouse toodling down the street on a segway with a laptop on the handle bars...

Ann Althouse said...

Here's another problem with buying it on line. You have to learn how to use it. I think it would be weird to do that on your own....

I guess I should rent one at some tourist site and see if I like it.

Ralph said...

Get a ninja hoodie like those Chinese cops and you won't have to worry about looking silly. Have UW build you a seg-in phone booth to unmask on campus.

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