The Entrepreneurial Brain: Bending Reality Against Conventional Wisdom

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The Entrepreneurial Brain: Bending Reality Against Conventional Wisdom

By Luis E. Romero | Forbes Magazine | November 15, 2023

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The thing about reality is that we do not live in it. We live in our minds, which is just a version of reality. No matter how objective someone is, their worldview will always be incomplete and partially distorted. This means that the line between clarity and deception, which we all want to believe is obvious, can sometimes be very blurry. Hence, genius and madness often dance with each other to the complex tune of the human mind. Entrepreneurs frequently see themselves in this dance, making the entrepreneurial path one of the toughest to follow.

Entrepreneurship is not merely about launching a business; it’s a journey into the mind, a deep dive into the unconscious, and an incarnation of the intriguing nature of reality. The entrepreneurial brain functions like a receptor and a creator simultaneously, in ways that often challenge the status quo, creating situations that are conventionally unsound but ultimately successful. Five key themes explain this journey:

  1. Vision.  The entrepreneurial mind sees and experiences reality differently—that includes the past, the present, and the future—leading to the identification of overlooked or undiscovered opportunities. So, what separates the entrepreneurial brain from the rest? It’s all about envisioning a world invisible to others.  Vision is the ability to see what can be, but still is not—sometimes against all odds. Now, how does the human brain create a vision of what doesn’t exist? We can get a glimpse of the answer by learning how the human eye sees the physical world.  And we create most of what we “see.”

Now, when entrepreneurs “see” the future (i.e., craft a vision), we know 100% of it is made-up. Not only that, we know an entrepreneur’s vision can only be built on assumptions of how the world works—a worldviews—which adds a whole new layer of uncertainty. If the worldview is critically flawed, the vision will be as good as gibberish, which leads us to our first conclusion: Having a clear, sensible worldview of the present is as important as having a clear, sensible vision of the future when it comes to the entrepreneurial journey. 

  1. Cognitive Intelligence.  Cognitive intelligence is the ability to understand the causal loops that make up reality. It is all about systems thinking.  Interestingly, the entrepreneurial mind uses cognitive intelligence differently from other types. Where most people see cause and effect, entrepreneurs see an opportunity to change the cause, tweak the effect, or completely change the cause-effect loop. Thus, as entrepreneurs engage in problem-solving, not only do they attempt to improve reality, they actually try to create brand-new realities that others will have to understand and adapt to.  The entrepreneurial brain has a proclivity to create new realities because it has an organic understanding of the fallibility of our own ideas about the world. No matter how much data and “proven” patterns of causality there are, entrepreneurs tend to explore subtleties in such conventions that can be beneficial when trying to challenge the status quo. 
  2. Emotional Intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage one’s emotions through self-mastery; and understand the emotions of others through empathy. In so doing, we can establish relationships based on trust and shared goals. From there, we can inspire and leverage the collective’s cognitive intelligence toward realizing a common vision. Hence, emotional intelligence rises as the key to leadership, making the former the master orchestrator of most entrepreneurial endeavors as these tend to require sustained teamwork over a long period of time.  

When discussing leadership and emotional intelligence in the context of entrepreneurship, we must pay special attention to two quintessential elements: the ego and risk-taking.  When entrepreneurs are able to craft a healthy ego, it aids them in maintaining a strong belief in their ideas and capabilities so that they can compensate for the skepticism they face from others and even themselves.  Yet they also are able to empathize with the concerns and ambitions of others in an effort to build bridges to enhance teamwork.

  1. The Self Vs The Collective.  Entrepreneurship is a complex dance between the self and the collective. There usually is someone who creates the vision and leads the way, but ultimately, it is a collective effort involving many talented and committed people that brings the idea to fruition. In fact, it can be argued that even the entrepreneur’s original vision is also, in part, a reflection of the collective around them that fosters and helps articulate said vision.  Ego and empathy (at least in the very beginning) coexist at the core of the entrepreneurial seed.
  2. Consciousness Vs Unconsciousness.  Vision, cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, and our self-vs-collective nature are only part of the entrepreneurial journey. In fact, they might just be the tip of the iceberg. There is a part of every entrepreneur’s journey that, just as every other major function of the human brain, has a sizable unconscious component.   As research into the human brain advances, our unconscious is proven to be more and more influential in our decision-making—to the point that experts have started asking the question, how much are we really in control of what we do? Including entrepreneurs.  

All this is not to say people are not accountable nor responsible for their actions, good or bad, including becoming an entrepreneur. This is to say that having the ability to tap into the reservoir of wisdom, imagination, talent, and confidence available in our unconscious is a key to entrepreneurial success.  Based on the foregoing, it is important to wonder how much conscious control chokes the entrepreneurial drive and vision. How many people inspired the vision? How many people are needed to make the vision a reality? These questions point to the idea that, in order for an entrepreneur to change reality for everyone else, the entrepreneur relies on the individual unconscious, the collective unconscious, and collective work.

3 key takeaways from the article

  1. Entrepreneurs are not mere business leaders; they are visionaries who reshape industries, challenge norms, and embrace uncertainty. 
  2. As we analyze the human brain, we see that so much of the entrepreneurial genius has thick and deep elements of unconscious stimuli and collective inspiration, as well as an absolute need for collective engagement in order to become a reality. 
  3. Whether the entrepreneurial brain bends reality or bends itself, the irrefutable result is that, when successful, it creates realities that others must get onboard with in order to survive and thrive.

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Topics:  Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Startups

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