George Gilder: Entrepreneurship is the Launching of Surprises

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage

George Gilder address the mental and spiritual elements of entrepreneurship in “Unleash the Mind” defining entrepreneurship as the launching of surprises.

Unleash The Mind

I found a recent essay by George Gilder “Unleash the Mind” very thought provoking. I have selected some key excerpts and added my thoughts as to how they are particularly applicable to startups.

“America’s wealth is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions.”
George Gilder in “Unleash the Mind

This is also a good list for what’s needed for a startup to succeed: ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, and visions.

“Capitalism is the supreme expression of human creativity and freedom, an economy of mind overcoming the constraints of material power. […]  It is dynamic, a force that pushes human enterprise down spirals of declining costs and greater abundance. The cost of capturing technology is mastery of the underlying science. The means of production of entrepreneurs are not land, labor, or capital but minds and hearts.”
George Gilder in “Unleash the Mind

Entrepreneurship is the Launching of Surprises

Entrepreneurs succeed when they create a sense of mission that captures the hearts and minds of an early team with the requisite skills.

“Under capitalism, wealth is less a stock of goods than a flow of ideas, the defining characteristic of which is surprise. Creativity is the foundation of wealth. […]  Entrepreneurship is the launching of surprises. […] Creativity cannot be planned because it is defined by information measured as surprise.”
George Gilder in “Unleash the Mind

Early stage teams have to identify and exploit emerging market situations characterized by a high degree of uncertainty, they have to be ready to be surprised and to improvise solutions to unexpected problems and seize unanticipated opportunities.  I observed in “Early Markets Offer Fluid Opportunities“ that startups see fluid opportunities in dynamic environments, but no certainties before opportunities pass or the “situation changes.”

“Entrepreneurial knowledge has little to do with certified expertise, advanced degrees, or the learning of establishment schools. […] [Entrepreneurs succeed] “not by leaving it to the experts but by creating new expertise, not by knowing what the experts know but by learning what they think is beneath them.”
George Gilder in “Unleash the Mind

It’s this willingness not only to sweat the details but to be wrong or at least be thought of as wrong–perhaps for a very long time–that characterizes the powerful kind of entrepreneurial persistence

“As Peter Drucker has written, within companies there are no profit centers, only cost centers. Whether a particular cost yields a profit is determined voluntarily by customers and investors. Capitalism feeds on information that is outside of the company itself and therefore under the control of others. Only an altruistic orientation can tap the outside incandescence of information and learning that determine the success of capitalism’s gifts.”
George Gilder in “Unleash the Mind

You have to care about your customers enough to aspire to create value by serving them. This aspiration can sustain you as you venture into the uncertain and the ambiguous opportunities. You hope at least  to survive surprises you find, if not to be nimble and creative enough to take advantage of them.

Related Blog Posts

These are about exploring ambiguous situations and surviving–if not exploiting the surprises they hide:

Gilder’s essay is also posted at Discovery Institute “Unleash the Mind”

Postscript Tue-Aug-9-2016 : taking Peter Thiel’s definition of “secret” from “Zero to One” I would extend Gilder’s definition to say that entrepreneurship is the discovery of secrets to enable the launching of surprises.

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