I don’t think of myself as the entrepreneurial type. Writing is an entrepreneurial activity, and for six years I tried to make a living at it, but I failed.
Part of the reason I failed is that I detest marketing. I believed my only duty was to craft the best manuscript I could. Enticing people to buy the book was the publisher’s job. But the publisher wanted me to flack the product. So nobody marketed it, and the sales figures reflected that.
Another, and perhaps more important reason, is that I’m good at writing, but not good enough. Richard Strauss once called himself a first-rate second-rate composer. That’s how I perceive my place in the literary sphere.
(For the record, I consider Strauss a first-rate composer. If you think the opening bars of Also Sprach Zarathustra are a rush, listen to the first five minutes of the Alpine Symphony.)
Eventually I acknowledged my shortcomings and became a salaryman at UC Berkeley, starting as a lowly clerk in the Risk Services office and outlasting enough of my superiors to get the top job.
Some days, though, I wonder what kind of entrepreneur I might have been had I known what I know about business today.
Lo and behold, it’s possible to find out!
The hot new thing at research universities is fostering a warm and supportive start-up environment. It attracts ambitious faculty members and students, ingratiates the campus to neighboring tech centers (in UC Berkeley’s case, the ultimate tech center, Silicon Valley), and if it spins off any successful products, generates much-needed revenue.
UC Berkeley’s start-up program, the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, has developed the Berkeley Innovation Index, a Myers Briggs-type test that measures your entrepreneurial aptitude. The thinking behind the test is described in this paper. If you want to take the test, go here. You’ll only need a few minutes.
The test assesses seven qualities deemed essential for successful entrepreneurs:
· Ability to trust others
· Ability to overcome failure
· Ability to overcome social barriers
· Confidence and belief you can succeed
· Ability to work with others, including competitors if necessary
· Ability to balance resources across multiple objectives
· Ability to work amid uncertainty
Each is rated on a ten-point scale, with ten being the best. The results for each category are combined into an overall Innovation Mindset score, also on a ten-point scale.
I did worst at resource awareness (3.53). It could be I’m oblivious to the resources available to me. But it could also be I have no clue what business people mean when they talk about “ability to balance resources across multiple objectives.” Does that mean if I were a waiter, I’d drop the plates I was carrying when someone at another table asked for a water refill?
I also did badly at trusting others (4.90). Guilty as charged! Hey, in a work context, is trust really an asset?
I did better in the other five categories, though. My lowest score was in confidence and belief I could succeed (6.90). I thought I’d score poorly in this category because no matter how bad a case of Imposter Syndrome you have, trust me, mine is worse. In the other four areas, I scored over 7.00.
So my overall Innovation Mindset score was 6.44. My personalized analysis read as follows: “Based on your comfort with ambiguity, your MINDSET covers both operations and innovation, but LEANS towards INNOVATION. If you have interest in operational innovation and precision, you should pre-analyze situations and focus more on risk mitigation.” [CAPS theirs.]
Wait! Focusing on risk mitigation is what I do for a living! So did I bring the MINDSET to the job, or did the job instill the MINDSET in me?
Immaterial, I guess. The main message is that my long-held suspicions are true: I’d be a first-rate third-rate entrepreneur.