One of the big ideas I took away from my podcast episode with Anton Howes
earlier this year is that innovation is not instinctive: people who become innovators have usually been exposed previously to what Anton calls “the improving mentality”. Matt Clancy (see TiB 117
for previous coverage) cites Anton’s work in a fascinating new post
* that reviews the evidence and concludes that not only is entrepreneurship contagious, but you’re more likely to “catch” it from someone who is like you.
Gender is one big dimension. Clancy cites evidence from this paper
that children who are adopted by entrepreneurs are more likely to become entrepreneurs themselves - but that the effect is greatly mediated by gender. An entrepreneurial father has twice the impact on the career choice of his sons as an entrepreneurial mother, and almost no impact on those of his daughters (whereas an entrepreneurial mother has a strong effect on daughters). There are similar effects
among women who work in startups led by female founders.
Clancy sums up the evidence for contagion as follows:
Entrepreneurs are often found in social clusters (workplaces, neighborhoods)
Quasi-random exposure to entrepreneurs increases the probability of becoming an entrepreneur
Entrepreneurial influence seems stronger when entrepreneurial peers occupy a more similar social position
The effect of exposure to entrepreneurs is much weaker for the people most likely to already be considering a career in entrepreneurship
This strongly suggests, as we discussed in TiB 149
, that if we want more entrepreneurs, we need more role models, both in real life and in fiction - and, particularly, if we want more founders from underrepresented groups, we need to be telling the stories of those who succeed loudly and often.
*Thanks Michael for the link