VC:VC Management vs Entrepreneurship

My friend and Harvard Business School Professor Paul Gompers once suggested the best definition I have yet heard for entrepreneurship. Management, he states, is the optimization of resources; entrepreneurship is the optimization of opportunity.

This is explored further in a recent HBS blog posting MBAs vs. Entrepreneurs: Who Has the Right Stuff for Tough Times? In this posting, Professor Saras Sarasvathy, is quoted as noting that MBAs (managers) live by the creed To the extent that we can predict the future, we can control it. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, live by the obverse: To the extent that we can control the future, we do not need to predict it.

As I think about my cycling hobby, up to about 400 miles so far this year, I wonder which approach is more relevant. By knowing the route ahead of time, I can prepare myself and my food/drink, to ensure I have fun and train hard. However, I am often a play-it-safe cyclist who perhaps forgoes the opportunity of an unplanned excursion, worrying whether I will have the strength to make it back without hitting the wall ("bonking"), or without becoming unpleasantly exhausted.
Yesterday a few of us talked idly about riding in the Climb to the Clouds. As regular readers know, hill climbing not my favorite, because (I insist) it is tougher on a recumbent (a prediction oriented opportunity-killer). I thought out loud that I should employ a designated hitter; Elisa made the appropriate correction: I need a designated hiller!

In the non-profit world, even predicting the future is no sure path to controlling it (although I am not entirely sure it works in the corporate world either). At Hazon we have both under-estimated and over-estimated income from various sources every year (especially this year), and it is only through the imaginative marshaling of opportunities that we have continued to expand our reach and influence.

1 comment:

GreenRoundtableNEXUS said...

Not surprisingly - brilliant!
There is always an inherent (and healthy) tension between the two, interdependent forces of entrepreneurs and managers. You clearly define and articulate how they manifest. This also underscores how intertwined both are. One can not exist without the other! I think one of the secrets of success is striking a healthy balance between the two (always learning from the act of balancing!).
My initial feeling is that it is more the responsibility of the entrepreneur to be vigilant of the feedback loop, rather than the manager...