On Friday 26th November 2010 The Times ran an article it called ‘How the Demise of the Dinosaur Tuned Mice into Mammoths’. It highlighted the adventitious events that led to the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago (ushering in the Tertiary period, proceeding Quaternary period and preceding the Cretaceous). Essentially after a meteorite hits the earth (KT event) dinosaurs no longer fed on the vegetation. This meant that an enormous amount of resources were now available to small mammals. Mammals exploded in size and quantity. In economic geographic terms mammals simply benefitted greatly from a felicitous environmental inflection.
But this is no different for entrepreneurial species such as so-called minorities like Oprah Winfrey and Don King. These ‘EntrePredators’ were marginalised by larger prey dominating the economic landscape. The ambient environment was hostile and pickings were lean. However, Martin Luther hit America like a meteor causing the ‘Civil Rights inflection’ that changed the fortunes of many minority entrepreneurs and they grew to ‘mega fauna’ proportions.
A meteor hit the USA mid 1800s: the American Civil War, the Secondary Industrial Revolution and the US Stock market. The economic landscape changed forever. A species of EntrePredator thrived mother, as a result of the adventitious events. The roster included names like JJ Hill, John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie to name but a few.
And of course you have the arrival of the Altair 8080 (the first PC) in 1974 which changed the world once again. Suddenly the Tyrannosaurus Rex of technology, namely IBM, fell from its dominant position allowing smaller EntrePredators species to come out from under in the form of Bill Gates (Micro Soft) and Steve Jobs (Apple).
Gun Germs and Steel by Jarred Diamond talks about a world filled with haves and have nots.. He’s a biologist and specialist in human physiology. His book outlines his quest to find out why some races are among the haves and some are among the have nots. Diamond makes it clear it had much to do with geographic luck. This parallels with the economic ecology alluded to earlier. Take for instance the access to nutritious grasses like wheat and barley in the Fertile Crescent. This led to farming right along the east/west axis area through Eurasia. This path of farming was because of the common axis creating similar day lengths, climates, and therefore, supports the same natural life, making the axis a conduit for farming opportunity. Anyone along the axis had a great opportunity to benefit from farming. Those outside the axis had less opportunity.
At a micro level or macro ‘creature(s)’ often find themselves in ‘fortuitously’ changing times and changing environments, so well suited to their peculiarities it leads to amazing growth.
In my interview on Press TV I fought with Afshin Rattansi to extol the wisdom of the “largely discredited” Joseph Schumpeter. Great growth is preceded by great collapse. Creative Destruction (as exposed by Schumpeter) is instructive. If you want great growth look for where great desctruction has or is about to take place.
See the punch up between Ron Shillingford V Afshin Rattansi on youtube
EntrePredator – The Power of Context and Economic Geography
The Entrepredator combines the intelligent mind of modern civilised man but also incorporates his inescapable basic and predatory antecedence.
Timing is critical in an entrepredator’s fortunes. In North America, during the Pleistocene epoch (that ended around 10,000 years ago) megafauna or large mammals, disappeared (during the latter stage of the epoch). This correlates with the appearance of man (an apex predator) in the region. Smilodon’s (Sabre toothed Tiger) extinction correlates with a man’s arrival. Ten thousand years or so later in North America, another epoch began, but this was a commercial one. The epoch correlates with the appearance of another predator. The new environment was as sponsored by the animal spirits and herd instincts of investors and corresponds with the arrival of the entrepredator species called – the Arbitrageur. Knowledgerush.com define Arbitrageur as …the practice of taking advantage of a state of imbalance between two (or possibly more) markets… Warren Buffett is a member of this ‘species.’ His ‘phenotype’ was Suit Able to the landscape, he was lucky enough to be born into. Bill Gates highlighted the point saying “Warren says if he’d been born a few thousand years ago, he’d probably have been some animal’s lunch. But he was born into an age that has a stock market and rewards Warren for his unique understanding of the market”
In Gates and Jobs’ case it was the January 1975 “Project Breakthrough” launch of the Altair 8080 accompanied by the headline “World’s First Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models.” It was the launch of the personal computing industry and the beginning of one of the most valuable industries in the world today. They were both twenty years old at the time (similarly the Rockefeller brothers). Dutch Schultz rise occurred during the heights of the prohibition era. His notorious temperament and ambition made him attractive prospect to gansterpreneur and owner of tenement speakeasy, Joey Noe. The duet established themselves after going on to control beer supply to the New York Bronx. Schultz’s temperament combined with the prohibition environment would concoct multi-millionaire dollar fortune for the iconic gangster.
Richard Dawkins writes in his book The Selfish Gene “If we were told that a man had lived a long and prosperous life in the world of Chicago gangsters, we would be entitled to make some guesses as to the sort of man he was, We might expect that he would have qualities such as toughness, a quick trigger finger, and the ability to attract loyal friends. These would not be infallible deductions, but you can make some inferences about a man’s character if you know something about the conditions in which he has survived and prospered. The argument of this book [referring to his book but equally applying to this one] is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have survived, in some cases for millions of years, in a highly competitive world. This entitles us to expect certain qualities in our genes…”
On page 62 of Outliers author Malcolm Gladwell lists fourteen entrepreneurs, five of which I featured in my previous book This extract from Outliers addresses the same point directly. Gladwell highlights the reason for why fourteen of the seventy –five (or 20%) of those he list as the world’s richest people in history were born between 1830 and 1840. This time frame suggested momentous change was taking place in and around this time as highlighted earlier. He writes “In the 1860’s and 1870’s, the American economy went through perhaps the greatest transformation in its history. This was when the railroads were being built and when Wall Street emerged. It was when industrial manufacturing started in earnest. It was when all the rules by which the traditional economy had functioned were broken and remade. What this list says is that it really mattered how old you were when that transformation happened. If you were born in the late 1840’s you missed it.” Gladwell supports his case citing Sociologist C. Wright Mills who wrote “The best time during the history of the United States for the poor boy ambitious for high business success to have been born was around the year 1835.” Gladwell overlooked James J Hill. He was born in 1838! Paul Allen and Bill Gates founders of Microsoft were born 1955 and 1953 respectively. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founders of Apple were born in 1955 and 1950 respectively, Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems was born 1954. Nagavara Murthy founder of Infosys one of India’s largest IT companies, Azim Premji founder of Wipro, one of the largest software companies in India and Shiv Nadar, founder of HCL Technologies, a global leader in IT Services were all born 1946, 1945 and 1945 respectively this time in India.
Of course there are men and women that are successful in the above named individuals industries that were born much earlier and much later. But the clusters of birthdates do support the idea that there is a correlation between peculiar characteristics, environments and great success.
Nietzsche also spoke of the Übermensch (the superman to come) who is destined to become embarrassed by his ancestors (ordinary man) who is equally embarrassed by their own perceived humble evolutionary origins. Homo Economicus, or Economic human, is the concept in some economic theories of humans as rational and broadly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments towards their subjectively defined ends.
A major difference between an economic-geographical perspective and the assumptions of economic orthodoxy concerns the notion of a ‘rational man’ – homo economicus. Mainstream economists assume that people are always behaving as rational, profit maximising individuals responding to market signals. However, life is more complex than that and people’s behaviour is not always the outcome of rational decision-making. Rather, it can be influenced and conditioned by their gender, race, age, class, religion, culture, health or disability. Geographers are keen to take these aspects on board when studying economies. A ‘geographical man/woman’ – or what I will call here homo geographicus – can behave very differently from the way they are supposed to behave according to economic orthodoxy
Having spent seven years studying and writing about history’s greatest entrepreneurs (culminating in the book ‘The History of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs’) I now try to articulate what it is I discovered about the phenomenon of entrepreneurial success.
Just as specie’s evolution is rewarded or penalised by an environment, the same dynamic accounts for the success of great/successful entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur likelihood of success follows the same precepts of a successful species – fortuitously better ‘biologically’ adapted (and/or skilled) and/or circumstantially placed to take advantage of his or her local changing environment in a struggle for success. Thus the successful entrepreneurs appears often to be (like a successful species) fortuitously ‘Suited’ to the landscape in which great opportunity is being offered. All things being equal when such conditions are met nature will assist in improving the entrepreneur’s chances of rising successfully as naturally as it does yeast in an oven.
Key factors; Perculiarity of the species, Environment, and Change.
Oprah’s story appears to be a good case study:
The cues in Oprah’s instance are, 1. Takative Nature and Turbulent Life (Perculiarity) 2. Co-Axel Cable Technolgy explosion of national TV (Environment) 3. Civil Rights Struggle (Change).
It’s also important to look out for Random Events such as: Oprah’s mother ’selecting’ Vernon Winfrey as the best candidate for her illegitimate baby. Having Hattie Mae Bullock as a grandmother and Gene Abrams as a teacher. Quincy Jones spotting Oprah whilst looking for something interesting to watch whilst in his hotel suite. I could go on. These fortuitous events proved critical in the rise of the ‘apex predator’ called Oprah. And no different than the precepts that led to the rise of Dinosaurs during the Triassic or Mammals during the Paleocene and so on.
The public is being misled as to what really accounted for the success of great entrepreneurs and great individuals of historical note.
“I knew there was a way out I knew there was another kind of life because I had read about it”
I knew there were other places, and there was another way of being.” During 1861 to 1865, America fought a civil war. Eleven, mainly Southern, states seceded from the ‘United States,’ forming the Confederate States of America (the CSA). In 1865 veterans of the defeated Confederate Army formed the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and for two hundred years the Klan committed thousands of murderous atrocities against the former slaves and their descendants in the Deep South. The legacy of slavery would severely dampen the fortunes of the black populous socially, economically and politically.
The US Government passed The Civil Rights Act of 1871, designed to protect African Americans from the abuse dished out by the Klan. That year Sanford Elias Winfrey was born in Mississippi (a KKK strong hold), the son of former slaves. He was the great-grandfather of a child destined to become the most influential woman in America. She would also be critically instrumental in the election of America’s first black President. Her name was of course Oprah Winfrey.
The Power of Television
To begin with, Sanford’s great-granddaughter would become a spiritual icon, to ‘white’ America, often referred to as the “The Church of O”. Whoever she sneezed on would catch a cold. During an interview in 1996 about mad cow disease Oprah Winfrey stuttered the now infamous words: “It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!” The price of beef immediately plummeted.
In 2003 American cable television network, VH1 ranked Oprah 3rd in a vote on the greatest pop culture icon of all time. Only Superman and Elvis were able to beat her! Life magazine called her “America’s most powerful woman” and in 2005 she was voted 9th in a poll on The Greatest Americans of all time.
In 2003, Forbes International listed Oprah as the first black billionaire and the first black female billionaire in global history. Since then she has more than doubled her wealth, making her America’s richest self-made female entrepreneur, hands-down. A 2007 Gallup poll concluded that 73% of American adults held a sympathetic opinion of Oprah. She has ranked time and again among the World’s most admired women. Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in Mississippi, in a town called Kosciusko, in 1954: the same year technology allowed television broadcasting to go national in the USA .
When Oprah was born her mother Vernita Lee was still only a teenager living in poverty in rural Mississippi, a state with a reputation for oppression against its black citizens. There was a mix-up with Oprah’s name. The world’s most influential woman’s name was supposed to be Orpah after the biblical character (sister in law of Ruth), but ‘Oprah’ had a ring to it and stuck.
Vernon Winfrey and Vernita Lee never married and split-up when Oprah – their only child together – was a toddler. Vernon found out he was the father when he received a news clipping announcing the birth in the post, together with a request for baby clothes. Just after the birth of her child Vernita departed from Milwaukee leaving baby Oprah with her mother, Hattie Mae Bullock. Hattie and her family lived on a scrap of land a few acres in size. All members of the family had to pull their weight as soon as they were old enough.
There were chickens and pigs to raise and they worked hard producing their own food. No plumbing meant a constant flow of water required to be brought into the house. Bare foot little Oprah would take on this responsibility. Under the tutelage of her grandmother Oprah gained her love of reading. Hattie’s little grandchild began her speaking career when she started reciting the Bible to the congregation at the United Mississippi Baptist Church on Sundays aged three.
Oprah would play with the animals on the land “playacting” in front them as they formed her audience. She would interview her doll, formed from corncob, which she would perch on a fence. Performances in front of family and grandma’s friends only served to reinforce the little girl’s sense of confidence in front of the public. Oprah would later highlight “[People] would say to my grandmother, “Hattie Mae, this child sure can talk. She is the talkingest child.” At the age of three she was performing memorised sermons in church. At five the ‘talkative’ child wrote a note to her kindergarten teacher on her first day. Her teacher instantly moved her to first grade after reading the note which Oprah had written insisting she really should be in the grade above because she could already write and knew long words like elephant and hippopotamus. Shortly after the first move up she was moved up again.
Ready For the World at Six
Though Grandma’s tough regime was needlessly punishing, Oprah declared: “I am what I am because of my grandmother; my strength, my sense of reasoning, everything. All that was set by the time I was six.” When Grandma became ill Oprah’s upbringing was again disrupted. She was sent off to a boarding-house to live with her mother and aunt (her mother’s half-sister, Patricia) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The neighbourhood was a ghetto and the environment dangerous. Oprah would often spend time collecting, naming and feeding the cockroaches!
Often reliant on welfare, Vernita would frequently leave Oprah and her young brothers and sisters alone with an elder cousin to mind them whilst she worked. The first time Oprah was raped was on one such occasion. The perpetrator was her 19 year-old cousin. Nine year-old Oprah was given some ice cream in exchange for her silence. Sometime later she would suffer the same indignity at the hands of another family member. This time it was an uncle. And this time it would not be once or twice, but on-going. Despite the abuse, the intelligent young girl thrived in school and at the age of 13 was awarded an educational scholarship. Alas family disruption was never too far away. Oprah became unruly and promiscuous. It was enough to push her mother to exasperation.
One day Oprah, who wore butterfly-rimmed glasses, asked her Mum if she could get some specs that were less embarrassing. The answer was no. Inventive Oprah cooked up a scheme. She broke the glasses, turned the place upside down and then called the police! When they arrived she lay there faking amnesia telling them she remembered nothing other than her glasses falling off after being hit in the head by an intruder.
Narrowly escaping a detention centre, the rebellious 14 year-old was despatched off to her father in Nashville, Tennessee. Vernon, a former soldier, had a very different attitude to education and discipline to Vernita. Oprah arrived pregnant at her father’s home. The baby boy tragically died at only a couple of weeks old. Her father ensured that his daughter’s life was reconstructed. His clever little girl’s education became his priority.
Vernon lived with his wife Zelma. The couple were unable to have children so Oprah was very much welcomed. For the first time in her life Oprah had her very own room. Then, not long after entering Wharton Elementary School, she was moved up a grade. Her growing love of books was augmented by frequent visits to the library accompanied by Vernon and Zelma. With curfews and other new rules like five new words per day having to be learned (or no dinner), a book a week to be read and reported on, her grades kept at an ‘A’ minimum, she excelled. She was even paid to speak on one occasion, earning herself $500.
Oprah’s topsy-turvy life continued after visiting her mother in Milwaukee. She decided to stay with Mum, who had since had another child in the overcrowded apartment. However, being labelled “gifted” was enough to help her deal with all the difficulties she faced living with her mother in Milwaukee.
Oprah came to the attention of teacher Gene Abrams whilst attending Lincoln Middle School in Milwaukee. Abrams organised the precocious young student’s transfer from Lincoln to Nicolet High School (an all white affair) in Glendale, Wisconsin. Only 14 years earlier the US Supreme Court had adjudged segregated schools unequal and therefore unconstitutional. Oprah was Nicolet’s only black student, making her an immediate celebrity.
America was in the midst of a great emotional outpouring. It was around this time the great talk show host, Donohue, took a mike, impromptu, into an American audience on camera. From then on Americans have been pouring out their hearts and private affairs on national television. It was also at this time two iconic figures in the pursuit of equal rights, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, were murdered.
America was coming together and expressing their loves, fears and desires. Times were changing, and Oprah was a beneficiary. Reflecting on her school days she said: “In 1968 it was real hip to know a black person, so I was very popular.” In 1969 Maya Angelou published her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which in many ways echoed Oprah’s early life. The book tells of how three year-old Maya and her brother were sent to live with their grandmother. It ends with Maya’s pregnancy aged 17. Oprah would later say: “I read it over and over, I had never before read a book that validated my own existence” (the two women would each go on to become icons in their own right and great friends with one another). The book gave Oprah perspective.
Vernon’s hard work and focus paid off when Oprah became an honours student gaining entrance to Tennessee State University on a full scholarship to study Speech Communications and Performing Arts. It was the result of her success in a speaking competition. University was the perfect place for the talented performer who was so at ease in front of a crowd. She became President of the student council, and involved herself with the debating and drama clubs. She even won an invitation to the White House Conference on Youth in 1971. She was also crowned Miss Black Nashville and Miss Tennessee. This was in addition to being crowned Miss Fire Prevention after being chosen to represent them in a beauty pageant.
After a local radio interview she was then given a part-time job as an afternoon news reader. TV Debut A station manager from a company affiliated to CBS, a major TV network, heard her and thought she sounded great – and he wanted her for television. Oprah was shocked, surprised and overawed by the offer, and kept turning it down again and again. Oprah did what she would later continue to do throughout her career: she sought advice from a trusted friend. She was told she was crazy and that’s why she had been studying so hard at university – to get jobs like the one being offered to her. Oprah accepted the job. By the time she was 19 she was the first black co-anchor of an evening news programme in Nashville and still studying at university. She was now making more money part-time than her father was full time.
Oprah moved swiftly through the ranks of various TV companies her obvious talent landing her better and better spots on various news programmes. The move-up was not without its challenges. WJZ in Baltimore hired her (aged 22) to co-anchor the morning news programme. The older white co-host wasn’t pleased with the station’s idea to pair him up with some black, southern, small town, female, upstart. There were complaints about her nose, her hair and all sorts.
WJZ sent her off to have her hair straightened by a stylist inexperienced in ‘black hair’ and he left her bald as a coot. Oprah was eventually transferred to a morning talk show called People Are Talking and she was a sensation. WLS-TV in Chicago viewed an audition tape of Oprah and wanted her. But as always commercial success was dogged by personal challenges. Oprah was smoking cocaine: something she would later reveal as one of the hardest things she’s ever had to speak publicly about. It wasn’t so much the drug she was addicted to but the guy she was dating who was smoking it.
Aged 29, Oprah moved to Chicago becoming the A.M. Chicago anchor in January 1984 with a salary of $200,000 a year. Their ratings were in the basement before she took over. Oprah brought the magic, shifting its focus to issues of controversy. She immediately took the ratings through the roof. A year later the show was renamed the Oprah Winfrey Show. Famed music and TV producer Quincy Jones is in town (Chicago) doing some business and turns on the TV in his room. Flipping through the channels he spots Oprah. The chat show host exudes all the qualities he envisages for a character called Sophia in an upcoming project he’s involved with.
The Queen Enters King World
Quincy Jones and Steven Spielberg were working on a film based on Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple. Spielberg was in a Chicago hotel room when he turned on the TV in his room and spotted Oprah. The chat show host exuded all the qualities he envisaged for the character of Sophia. Oprah was cast in the role which, like Maya Angelou’s novel, had some parallels with her early life. It was a hit and Oprah was nominated for an Academy Award.
When King World and ABC came calling for the syndication rights to her TV show, Oprah hit the big time. She sought advice from an associate over dinner. The associate did the maths and recommended she go with King World. She did, and they took the show to nearly 150 cities. Soon after the deal was done Oprah was running around her apartment screaming and hollering waving a cheque for a million dollars above her head. Oprah would eventually own 25% of King World with options to buy more. This led her to become a billionaire. The deal was a first for debut syndication.
After The Color Purple’s staggering success The Oprah Winfrey Show went into the stratosphere. Oprah, with earnings of around $31 million, became the TV industry’s highest paid performer in 1987. Her ratings blew the competition away and she was showered with accolades and awards.
In Full Control
Oprah seized the entrepreneurial reins in 1986, forming her very own production company and naming it Harpo Studios (‘Harpo’ being ‘Oprah’ spelt backwards). By 1988 Harpo was able to wrestle ownership of The Oprah Winfrey Show, making her the first woman in history to own and produce her own talk show. Within a year the company was earning nearly $56m, of which Oprah’s cut was believed to be $30m. As always, though, Oprah was experiencing turmoil in her personal life. Her brother Jeffery Lee sadly died that year of AIDS. Behind the scenes Oprah and her team were furiously doing deals sponsored by the success of the product The Oprah Winfrey Show. Oprah consolidated her position in the market by buying up shares in various TV stations. Her purpose built studio was so large it required a whole block. The company grew into to conglomerate of media related businesses now named Harpo Inc., with Oprah owning 90%. The balance was owned by entertainment lawyer Jeff Jacobs, who represented Oprah during her A.M. Chicago days. Oprah now began the super-leveraging of her name and brand whilst maintaining full control of it. Forbes magazine described her as “a vertically integrated entertainment powerhouse.” The media mogul developed Harpo Films into what is now Harpo’s largest division. The film division produces motion pictures and TV films. She also bought the screen rights to various books and purchased the massive Eccentric restaurant in Chicago.
In April 2000 O Magazine arrived on the newsstands after partnering with Hearst Magazines, It quickly went from being a bi-monthly to a monthly out stripping many of its established industry titles. The initial 850,000 copies were quickly followed by further 500,000. Fortune Magazine referred to the launch of “O” as the most successful start-up ever in the industry. But the great entrepreneur, who became a legend by learning from her mistakes, also made some mistakes in business. Her O At Home spin-off magazine failed to take off and folded soon after launch.
Oprah formed an interactive cable company Oxygen Media, Inc., in 1998 with partners executive Geraldine Laybourne (formerly of Nickelodeon) Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach. The channel concentrates on Oprah’s core audience – women. The brand has been extended to both women’s and men’s clothing via her ecommerce site Oprahstore.com.
In 2006, a $55 million contract was signed with XM Satellite Radio to create a new radio channel, Oprah Radio. In January 2011 Oprah and Disney plan to launch OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network a speciality channel replacing the flagging Discovery Health Channel. Oprah will be the chairwoman with editorial control.
Oprah employs 250 people involved in numerous profitable businesses and is thought to be behind the largest property deal done by a private individual ever. Her contributions to charities are endless, and genuinely worldwide. She’s noted as show-business’ biggest donator to charity in America and is listed among the top 50 most generous philanthropists.
Phoenix Oprah was born poor, and painfully disadvantaged, in the Deep South state of Mississippi, the epicentre of prejudicial America. She was raped, sexually abused and neglected. But she seized whatever opportunities she could. As a woman living in a ‘man’s world’, she turned negativity into positivity. She monetised her brand, became a billionaire, and now uses her wealth to reach out and help those most vulnerable in society across the globe. As Patricia Sellers of Fortune Magazine and Chair of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, put it: “Oprah’s life is the essence of her brand and willingness to open up about it on daytime TV helped win the enduring trust of her audience.” The legacy of slavery spread across America like a glacier stunting the progress of African Americans. But when the racial climate changed the glacier thawed and gaps appeared, representing fleeting opportunities for the nimble, the gifted and the lucky to get through. Sanford Winfrey could never imagine what fortunes changing America would produce for his great-granddaughter and others. Oprah’s own suffering combined with her talent and her resourcefulness provided her with the means to help America heal itself in many ways. Her reward in so doing would be substantial.
Extract from Ron Shillingford’s ‘History of the World’s Greatest Female Entrepreneurs’
I think the public are being misled with regards to what really (reality) accounts for the success of an entrepreneur or any individual. Story tellers trying to be deep and meaniful is admirable but in truth success is a probability event as is evolution. How you manipulate the probabilty is far more useful to those in need of change.
“For all the folly and plain bad thinking at work in the world – all of which works to hinder wealth creation – there is one special breed of man who can offer us hope, that of the Entrepreneur.” Richard Cantillon
Long ago in a land far away there lived four little characters who ran through a maze looking for cheese to nourish them and make them happy. Two were mice named Sniff and Scurry and two were little people named Hem and Haw. As different as the mice and little people were, they shared one thing in common. Every morning they raced out of their homes into the maze to find their favourite cheese.
Sniff and scurry had simple brains but good instincts. They used a simple method of trial and error to hunt for cheese. Working together, Sniff would smell-out the general direction of the cheese and Scurry would race ahead. They often would race off in the wrong direction and bump their heads into walls. It worked often enough for them to continue working together and use the same method.
But Hem and Haw had complex brains with complex needs, beliefs and emotions that made their life in the maze more complicated and more challenging. But finding cheese was very important to the little people it was a way of getting what they thought they needed to be happy. For some it was having material things, for others it was health or peace of mind. For Haw cheese meant living in a cosy cottage, with a loving family on ‘Chedderd Lane’. To Hem cheese meant being a ‘big cheese’ in a mansion on top ‘Camembert Hill’. Eventually they all discovered their own kind of cheese at ‘Cheese Station C’.
Every morning after that Sniff and Scurry woke early each day and ran the same route through the maze to Cheese Station C to enjoy the cheese. Sniff and Scurry hung their running shoes around their necks in case they needed to get to them quickly. But Hem and Haw awoke each day a little later and stroll over to Cheese Station C. After all what was the rush, they knew where Cheese Station C was, how to get there and assumed it would always be there.
Hem and Haw put their running shoes away as they thought they wouldn’t be needing them again. Haw turned to Hem with a large piece of cheese in the palm of his hand and said “this is great isn’t it? There’s enough cheese here to last forever!” Haw replied “sure is” leaning back resting his head on the mountain of cheese behind him. They even decorated the walls with sayings. They wrote “having cheese makes you happy”.
Hem and Haw became so comfortable they didn’t notice what had been happening. Meanwhile Sniff and Scurry had been inspecting Cheese Station C each morning to see if there had been any changes. One morning they arrived at Cheese Station C and discovered there was no cheese! They weren’t surprised since they noticed the supply of cheese had been getting smaller. They mice didn’t over analyse things, so when things changed Sniff and Scurry changed. They switched into their running shoes and ran off in search of new cheese. Later that day Hem and Haw still yawning from their late morning rise, arrived at Cheese Station C. They had not been paying attention to the changes. As Hem entered Cheese Station C in a deep gasp of breath said “what?! No cheese, no cheese, who-moved –my cheese? It’s not fair as he darted around Cheese Station C inspecting the empty ground in disbelief. Haw replied Hem “were much smarter than the mice but we are not acting like it at the moment.” Ignoring Haw, Hem retorted, “I better see some cheese in here by tomorrow I’ve made plans this cheese” Haw replied. While the mice had moved on the two little people hemmed and hawed. Haw wrote on the wall “the more important cheese is to you the more you want to hold on to it”.
The next morning Hem and Haw, shoulders hunched made their way to Cheese Station C still expecting to find cheese at the same place. Hem cried out “why did they do this to me?” Haw asked “where are Sniff and Surry? They must know something we don’t” Hem replies “naw they’re simple mice, we are little people, much smarter than they are”. Haw gives a bumbling uncertain agreement “yeah yeah, but maybe we should get going and find some new cheese” to which Hem replied “oh no I’m gonna get to the bottom of this” and burst into tears crying“I want things to be the way they were”.
Meanwhile Sniff and Scurry moved deeper into the maze thinking of nothing other than new cheese. After much trial and error Sniff got wind of something and Scurry found their biggest store of cheese at ‘Cheese Station N’. Hem and Haw, still at the empty Cheese Station C, were still, well simply still hemming and hawing. But Haw was becoming overcome by hunger and began to imagine himself out in the maze in running shoes hunting for fresh new cheese. He was becoming so desperate now he could almost taste the cheese and encouraged Hem to leave with him to hunt for new cheese. Hem told him he isn’t leaving he liked it here “I’m comfortable here” he said “and besides it real dangerous out there”. Haw imagined the worst, fear of the unknown overtook him and his hopes of finding new cheese faded. So everyday Hem and Haw left their homes and wandered over to cheeseless Cheese Station C in hope more than expectation and then returned home with empty bellies filled with nothing but stress.
Hem paced around Cheese Station C mumbling “who moved my cheese, who moved my cheese, who moved my cheese.” Haw said “Hem look at us we keep doing the same things over and over and wonder why things don’t get better – its time” he said tying the laces of his running shoes “it’s time to move on!” Hem pleaded you’re not really going out in the maze again why don’t we wait here until they put the cheese back”. Haw said “you just don’t get it they’re never going to put the old cheese back, that’s was yesterday’s cheese, it’s time to find new cheese we can’t keep waiting for new cheese to appear, its time to find new cheese” Hem replied what if there’s no new cheese out there, what if you can’t find it. Haw replied “life moves on and so should we.” Hem held his head, closed his eyes and began crying whilst muttering who moved my cheese, who moved my cheese, who moved my cheese, who moved my cheese.” As Hem was muttering Haw passed him by shouting back to him “if we don’t change we might become extinct.” But Haw was not unafraid. A part of him wanted him to stay behind. He then wrote his thoughts and feelings on the wall “what would you do if you went afraid.”
It wasn’t long before Haw knew what to do. He gathered up all his courage and began jogging off into the unknown maze. It’s a new time!” echoed back off the maze walls as he disappeared into the distance. Soon he would feel lost, but it wasn’t long before he began to find his way. Haw thought being back in the maze was not nearly as bad he imagined. He asked himself how he got into this situation and paused to write on a wall what he was learning “smell the cheese often so you know when it’s getting old”. Haw hoped that this handwriting on the wall would not only be a reminder to himself but a trail for all those who came behind him into the maze trying to find their way to new cheese. Haw began to feel good whilst running despite not knowing exactly where he was going and not knowing exactly where the cheese was. He felt excited by the adventure. With that thought, he grabbed his maker and sprinted over to the nearest wall and wrote “when you move beyond your fear you feel free”.
The more Haw imagined himself finding the new cheese the more real the cheese became. He wrote “imaging myself enjoying new cheese before I find it actually leads me to it”. Then suddenly Haw arrived at a new Cheese Station but it was practically empty. He thought I’m too late, had I moved on sooner I would have seen a lot of new cheese here. Haw enjoyed the new cheese that was left there and moved on. It wasn’t much but it helped keep him going.
He felt he should get back to Hem and let him know there is new cheese out here. He raced back to Cheese Station C using the signs he had left and found Hem still there hemming and hawing, still bare foot and still no sign of his running shoes. Haw said Hem you look hungry here’s some new cheese. Hem replied “I don’t think I would like new cheese I want my own cheese, I want my old cheese back, I sure if I wait it out things will be back to how they were”. Haw walked off disappointed thinking will Hem ever change. Hem was left behind hemmed in by fear delusion and self-denial. Haw thought Hem can’t change or may be simply will not allow himself to believe he will enjoy new cheese. He seems to believe if he ventures into the maze things will get worst. Haw thought I’ve learned that if I change things will get better. With that thought in mind he grabbed a marker from his pocket and wrote on a wall “when you change what you believe, you change what you can do” and set off running. He found bits of new cheese here and there and began to regain his strength he hoped Hem might find his way by reading ‘the writing on the wall’.
Haw had let go of the past and was adapting to the present he was proceeding with the hunt for new cheese. And then it happened. Piled high everywhere was the largest supply of cheese he had ever seen. It was Cheese Station N. Haw couldn’t believe his luck and rubbed his eyes to see if he wasn’t experiencing a mirage. He dived in grabbed a bunch of new cheese tasted it and shouted “it is real!”
He looked up and saw sniff and scurry with large full tummies waving at him. They had been enjoying new cheese for quite a while. Haw vowed that next time he would change faster. Haw new it would be easy for him to slip back into old ways when he got too comfortable, so each day he inspected the condition of Cheese Station N. He would often go out into the maze to ensure that he was aware of his choices rather than lose himself in his comfort zone. He realised that change wasn’t as unpredictable as he first thought.
Then one day Haw heard what he thought was movement out in the maze it wasn’t Sniff or Scurry as they were knee deep in the cheese at the time enjoying themselves. Could it be Hem about to turn the corner? He felt so excited was his old friend Hem moving to the cheese and about to enjoy it?
This of course was the story published in 1998 by Spencer Johnson. It was designed to motivate and assist individual to embrace change. He called it Who Moved My Cheese?
The Greatest Success Story Ever
Definition of Evolutionary Entrepreneurship:
“Just as specie’s evolution is rewarded or penalised by an environment, the same dynamic accounts for the success of great/successful entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur’s likelihood of success follows the same precepts of a successful species’ – fortuitously better ‘biologically’ adapted (and/or skilled) and/or circumstantially placed to take advantage of his or her local changing environment in a struggle for success. Thus the successful entrepreneurs appears often to be (like a successful species) fortuitously ‘Suited’ to the landscape in which great opportunity is being offered. All things being equal when such conditions are met nature will assist in improving the ‘probability’ of an entrepreneur’s(entrepredator’s) chances of rising successfully as naturally as it does yeast in an oven.” Ron Shillingford
Whilst aboard HMS Beagle Charles Darwin described the Lower Andes (Tierra del Fuego, Spainish for Land of Fire) as nature’s workshop. He realised as the landscape changed it advantaged and disadvantaged its different inhabitants. Changing lanscapes demonstrate the ‘power of context’. The same precepts applies to entrepreneurship.
About seventy five thousand years ago an apocalyptic event took place, one that would change the course of human destiny forever. On the island of Sumatra in Indonesia a super volcano (mount Toba) erupted spewing out over two hundred cubic miles of ash. It was enough to block out the sun. The falling ash created a 15cm layer over the entire Indian subcontinent and was six metres deep in places. Temperatures fell by 30% and rain by 90%. It was a complete environmental collapse.
But this was only the beginning of the apocalypse. So far the affects were local to the eruption. Along with the ash, the eruption blasted out enormous quantities sulphuric dioxide which converted to sulphuric acid high up in the atmosphere. From near and far acid rain clouds formed and hung over the earth. The droplets from the clouds blocked out 90% of sunlight causing a six year long global volcanic winter. With very little sunlight available and temperatures down by 30 degrees centigrade, much of the forests disappeared, vegetation destroyed and with it the food chain it supported.
Humans were on top of that food chain and soon everyone was dead, everyone accept a few thousand men, women and children from the African Rift Valley region, possibly only a few hundred. Their rapidly deteriorating landscape would have held little hope for its inhabitants. Humanity was on the brink of extinction. Mass exodus would have seemed a way out. But this would mean entering the unknown. We can only imagine these circumstances but from such situations leaders emerge. Men or women endowed with a sense of daring. Or maybe they lacked the fear that would normally overtake an ordinary person. Their age, status or family (or lack of family) circumstances may have influenced their desire to leave. Either, way it’s the characteristics that would thrust these suitable individuals forward to fulfil their destiny. Unbeknown to them these individuals also had the destiny of mankind in their hands.
To these leaders we should be eternally grateful. These pioneers were east Africans migrants and we are their descendents. They became pioneers driven by circumstances, led by men and women with an indomitable spirit, a spirit that took them on an ‘out of Africa’ venture’. This venture would become the greatest venture of all time. The migrant’s decedents would eventually populate the whole world. This means everyone you can see around you is a distant relative, an actual blood relative and quite literally a member of the human family.
The African migrants who left realised things had changed radically and sought a new promise land. They were more fortunate than most. Probably got lucky. Their environment must have permitted them the time and opportunity to leave. It’s thought they escaped via the southern end of the Red Sea, where an isthmus 25 kilometres wide, providing a gangplank from the coast of Somalia to the coast of Yemen, ironically known as the Gates of Grief (Bab al Mandab).
This is how David Brown writing for The Washington Post described what he imagined happen next “People adapted to what they encountered the way all living organisms do: through natural selection. A small fraction of the mutations constantly creeping into our genes happened by chance to prove beneficial in the new circumstances outside the African homeland. Those included differences in climate, altitude, latitude, food availability, parasites, infectious diseases and lots of other things. A person who carried, by chance, a helpful mutation was more likely to survive and procreate than someone without it. The person’s offspring would then probably be endowed with the same beneficial mutation. Over thousands of generations, the new variant (what geneticists call the “derived allele”) could go from being rare to being common as its carriers fared better than their brethren and contributed more descendants to the population. Scientists have long known that regardless of ancestral home or ethnic group, everyone’s genes are pretty much alike. We’re all Homo sapiens. Everything else is pretty much details.”
Our migrant African ancestors represent a genetic bottleneck. There’s only a one-tenth of one percent difference in our DNA no matter who we are or where we are from. There is less diversity in any two humans from around the world than in a single troop of chimps and more genetic diversity between neighbours in one village in the African Rift Valley than between a person from South East Asia and a Northern European. Our very diverse visual appearances demonstrate how minor variations in our DNA can cause major changes in appearance, performance even our feelings about each other and ourselves. The mutation for ‘white’ skin, discovered in 2005, involved just one letter of DNA code. That is, 1 out of 3.1 billion letters. The ramification of this random change in hosts was off the chart. The politics of race and colour have affected the world beyond measure and led to instances where white genes for example have sought to obliterate non-white genes through genocide.
The new environments sought and found by the migrants produced new winners and losers. Through the mutation of genes housed in the migrant’s bodies peculiarities; features, characteristics, traits, phenotypes and so forth, appeared within individuals that made some better suited to the new environment than others. From here we take the journey from a ‘gene eye level’ perspective. So as these gene-hosts (Homo sapiens) made their way along the cost they began to branch off. Some of the earliest branches are now found among the suitably named aborigines of Australia who arrived there via India some 50,000 years ago. This branch represents some 10% of the world’s population. Another wave brought a branch that accounts for the other 90% and they moved north into the middle east and up into Asia 40,000 years ago eventually travelling into Europe and ultimately America around 10,000 – 15,000 years ago.
A chance event such as a drop in global temperatures produced fleeting opportunities. Air moisture was now being captured by the ice. The change caused the migrant genes to continue driving forward -hosts across the land bridge, Beringia, which was exposed due to the reduction in air moisture, lowering sea levels. The genes drove forward induced by the of pleasure sensation of eating, followed the Woolly Mammoth into North America ending the final chapter in the great ‘out of Africa venture’ when man completed the colonising of the entire inhabitable earth.
The world is filled with haves and have nots. Jarred Diamond is scientist of international repute. He’s a biologist and specialist in human physiology. His book Gun Germs and Steel outlines his quest to find out why some races are among the haves and some are among the have nots. Diamond makes it clear it had much to do with geographic luck (later this will be paralleled with economic geographic luck). Take for instance the access to nutritious grasses like wheat and barley in the Fertile Crescent. This led to farming right along the east/west axis area through Eurasia. This path of farming was because of the common axis creating similar day lengths, climates, and therefore, supports the same natural life, making the axis a conduit for farming opportunity. Anyone along the axis had a great opportunity to benefit from farming. Those outside the axis had less opportunity.
The domestication of native cows allowed and preceded domestication of wild wheat and barley. The use of animal labour helped to make able to reach a critical point in productivity re energy (calories) spend (labour) versus energy produced (food). In northern Europe farming’s sudden acceleration corresponded with a mutation in a gene that allowed the efficient digestion of milk sugars occurring around 7,500 years ago. This mutant gene (and its host) had a great advantage over its rivals. It could now benefit from a food source intended by the genes of cattle to be a provisioned for itself housed in calves. The milk of course provided the fortifying vitamin D. In low sunlit areas this was a great supplement and led to acceleration in population growth (a sure sign of genetic success).
This blog is about the seventy-five thousand year old genes housed in the bodies of African migrants (gene-host) from a ‘gene-centric entrepreneurial perspective’. It is about how those genes continue an ever onward march successfully venturing out of Africa to conquer and colonise the world. It’s also how these genes simply keep going forward becoming more and more specialist not only at the macro level of producing successful species and so-called races. At a micro or individual host level produce successes who heterogeneously, or simply put, for a multitude of reasons, found themselves in ‘fortuitously’ changing times and changing environments, so well suited to their genetic peculiarities and or social circumstances, lead to amazing entrepreneurial feats and success.
Malcolm Gladwell cites the Colorado Adoption Project in his book Tipping Point. The Colorado Adoption Project is run by Institute for Behavioural Genetics. IBG is research unit that conducts research on the genetic and environmental as a base of individual differences in behaviour. As expressed on the website of Colorado Adoption Study it’s one of the longest running studies of its kind.  The purpose of the CAP is to study both nature and nurture, to determine the genetic predispositions as well as the environmental influences that contribute to traits such as intelligence, personality, and behaviour. In order to do this a wide range of interviews have been conducted with participating families. Gladwell, with the supporting evidence from CAP states “geneticists has shown that most of the character traits that make us who we are – friendliness, extroversion, nervousness, openness and so on – are about half determined by genes and half by our environment.” This supports the idea that our genes and environment has an affect on determining who we are. And it is this ‘conspiring’ between our genes and environment that produce this probalistic character of our chances of ‘success.’
The importance of being born at the right time is a point I make in the revised edition of my book, The Road Ahead… My friend Warren Buffett, who’s often called the world’s greatest investor, talks about how grateful he is to live at a time when his particular talents are valuable.” Bill Gates
Another close friend of Buffett, David Gottesman, said during an interview “[Buffett] is very good at understanding what works for him, whether he’s taking about stocks or talking
As highlighted earlier, timing is critical in an entrepredator’s fortunes. In North America, during the Pleistocene epoch (that ended around 10,000 years ago) megafauna or large mammals, disappeared (during the latter stage of the epoch). This correlates with the appearance of man (an apex predator) in the region. Smilodon’s (Sabre toothed Tiger) extinction correlates with a man’s arrival. Ten thousand years or so later in North America, another epoch began, but this was a commercial one. The epoch correlates with the appearance of another predator. The new environment was as sponsored by the animal spirits and herd instincts of investors and corresponds with the arrival of the entrepredator species called – the Arbitrageur. Knowledgerush.com define Arbitrageur as …the practice of taking advantage of a state of imbalance between two (or possibly more) markets… Warren Buffett is a member of this ‘species.’ His phenotype was Suit Able to the landscape, he was lucky enough to be born into. Bill Gates highlighted the point saying “Warren says if he’d been born a few thousand years ago, he’d probably have been some animal’s lunch. But he was born into an age that has a stock market and rewards Warren for his unique understanding of the market”
On page 62 of Outliers Gladwell lists fourteen entrepreneurs, five of which I featured in my previous book This extract from Outliers addresses the same point directly. Gladwell highlights the reason for why fourteen of the seventy –five (or 20%) of those he list as the world’s richest people in history were born between 1830 and 1840. This time frame suggested momentous change was taking place in and around this time as highlighted earlier. He writes “In the 1860’s and 1870’s, the American economy went through perhaps the greatest transformation in its history. This was when the railroads were being built and when Wall Street emerged. It was when industrial manufacturing started in earnest. It was when all the rules by which the traditional economy had functioned were broken and remade. What this list says is that it really mattered how old you were when that transformation happened. If you were born in the late 1840’s you missed it.” Gladwell supports his case citing Sociologist C. Wright Mills who wrote “The best time during the history of the United States for the poor boy ambitious for high business success to have been born was around the year 1835.” Gladwell overlooked James J Hill. He was born in 1838! Paul Allen and Bill Gates founders of Microsoft were born 1955 and 1953 respectively. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founders of Apple were born in 1955 and 1950 respectively, Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems was born 1954. Nagavara Murthy founder of Infosys one of India’s largest IT companies, Azim Premji founder of Wipro, one of the largest software companies in India and Shiv Nadar, founder of HCL Technologies, a global leader in IT Services were all born 1946, 1945 and 1945 respectively this time in India. Of course there are men and women that are successful in the above named individuals industries that were born much earlier and much later. But the clusters of birthdates do support the idea that there is a correlation between characteristics and environments.
In his book Blink Gladwell touches upon Suit-Abilty not directly but he certainly highlights the advantage of certain peculiar attributes that can provide an advantage in particular environments. Gladwell speaks about Larry Bird (arguably one of the greatest basketball players ever) and how he experiences the optimal range of arousal (stress) where performance can be greatly enhanced in some individuals. Bird’s peculiar psychological biology allowed him to slow time down during a stressful critical moments in a game. To Bird the players on the court all appear to slow down – very advantageous on a basketball court where mistakes or genius can win or lose millions of dollars. It allows the player to anticipate an opponent’s move or that of a teammate. Bird was well known this precise ability.
Dr. James Naismith, created the game basketball in1891, the TV has been commercially available since the late 1930. These great changes in history created the conditions where sports stars could attract enormous sums of monies in to sports industry through advertising, sponsorship and endorsement. This created an environment in which someone with the peculiarity of Larry Bird would thrive. Bill Gates speaking about Buffets views said “Football stars should feel grateful too, There just happens to be in a game where it turns out that a guy who can kick a ball with a funny shape through goal posts a fair percentage of the time can make millions of dollars a year” The two richest men in the world understood the random nature of opportunity and how it naturally selects those with the appropriate Suit-Abilty.
The traditional understanding of smart isn’t what makes you a winner as an entrepreneur. There are all kinds of smart; street-smart, emotional intelligence, engineering or pragmatic smart, political savvy, and as we have just heard sport smart (like court awareness in basketball). David Beckham’s ability to instinctively calculate the complex mathematical of trajectory, velocity and rotation dynamics (backspin) needed to get a football to clear defenders and reach a pinpoint target is legendary. It is a form of intelligence. Author of the book Football Physics: The Science of the Game, Timothy Gay highlights all manner of physics laws, such as the effect of Newton’s Law of Motion, in sport in his book. The great sporting stars, like Michael Jordan, can appear to conquer the understanding of physics from a practical stand point. Anyone that has watched him play knows he can actually fly and float in mid air! Some people seem made for their vocation.
A circus performer from Germany was touring the UK just before the break-out of WWI. He was renowned for his perfectly formed athletic physic and performed his act “living Greek statue.” As a child he was taunted by the other children for his weak and illness-prone body. But he drew inspiration from his Greek father, an award-winning gymnast and his German mother. She practiced of a form of medicine founded on the belief that diet, exercise, breathing exercise and other natural remedies were central to the origin and treatment of disease.
When the WWI broke out he was interned. Prison conditions were small and cramped limiting the space for healthy exercise. Many prisoners lying ill in bed had no means of exercising at all. The circus performer developed a range of exercises that would allow the practitioner to have a full body work out despite being confined to a minute area. His name was Joseph Pilates. Pilates is an industry today generating millions of pounds. A reputed 11 million people practice the discipline and over 14 thousand instructors reputed to be in the USA alone.
Barnum wrote several books, including one called The Art of Money-Getting in 1880. In his own was he picked-up on the importance of Suit-Abilty. In a chapter called “Don’t Mistake Your Vocation” he wrote “The safest plan, and the most sure of success for the young man starting in life, is to select the vocation which is congenial to his own taste… ‘Its common for a father to say I have five boys. I will make (remember this book was written in 1891) Billy a clergyman; John a lawyer; Tom a doctor, and Dick a farmer. He then goes into town and looks about to see what he will do with Sammy. He returns home and says “Sammy, I see watch-making is a nice genteel business; I think I will make you a goldsmith. He dioes this, regardless of Sam’s natural inclinations, or genius.
We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born natural mechanics, whilst some have a great aversion to machinery. Let a dozen boys of ten years get together, and you will soon observe two or three are “whittling” out some ingenious device; working out some ingenious device; working with locks or complicated machinery. When they were but five years old, their father could find no toy to please them like a puzzle. They are natural mechanics; but the other eight or nine boys have different aptitudes. I belong to the latter class; I never had the slightest love for mechanism; on the contrary, I have a sort of abhorrence for complicated machinery. I never had ingenuity enough to whittle a cider tap so it would not leak. I never could make a pen that I could write with, or understand the principal of a steam engine., If a man was to take such a boy as I was, and attempt to make a watchmaker of him, the boy might, after an apprenticeship of five or seven years, be able to take apart and put together a watch: but all through life he would be working up hill and seizing every excuse for leaving work and idling away his time. Watch making is repulsive to him.
Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed…”
“Every human life is made to fit some place, and there is a place for every life…” Asa Candler. (founder of Coca Cola).
 “…if you look around you on a bus or in a park or café or any crowded place, most people you see are very probably relatives. When someone boasts to you that he is a descendent from Shakespeare or William the Conqueror, you should answer at once: ‘Me too!’ In the most literal and fundamental sense we are all family.
 This is generally accepted in the scientific community. Author Sean B Carroll would call this process ‘making of the fittest’ in his book of the same title.
 Vitamin D3 is produced in skin exposed to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B radiation.
 So-called because race as biological a typology is a flawed concept.
 The word Probalistic in this instance relates to what is called Newcomb’s Paradox. It deals with decisions one makes and the probable outcomes in the future. It is also referred to as Newcomb’s Problem which is a thought experiment involving a game between two players, one of whom purports to be able to predict the future. Entrepreneurs are affected in the same way the crocodile would be in his decision making. Think of a crocodile having heard of the success of an eagle in the air then tries to emulate it. His decision will render his chances of success ‘slim to none’. But if he considers his own peculiar physiological and psychobiological design and augment that by positioning himself in a conducive environment like river for example, her/his chances of success soar exponentially. Newcomb’s Problem is linked to Decision Theory which in mathematics and statistics is concerned with identifying the values, uncertainties and other issues relevant in a given decision and the resulting optimal decision. What budding entrepreneurs want to know is — what way to go? That is, what approach presents the greater likelihood of success? One’s own predispositions, influenced by genes and environment will not only influence his probability of success but also the decisions she/he makes. Understanding this provides the opportunity to approach entrepreneurship on a pro-probalistic basis. Ignoring it leaves one completely exposed to the vicissitudes of chance and delusion.
 Famous author and Trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb highlights the fact that his success began whilst at Wharton Business School when he realised he could take advantage of the markets misunderstandings. These misunderstandings result from cognitive kinks in human thinking. This gave him the advantage of a pro-probalistic approach to his hedge fund’s strategy.
Having just qualified to be enrolled in Arrival Education’s business programme) my 15 year old niece (who I’ll refer to as Katie) and I celebrate over breakfast at a plush hotel. As we sit I proudly began trundling out the story of my first business aged 10. She cuts me mid-flow “yes I know, I know there’s a kid just like you at my school…” Hiding my feelings of deflation not being able to tell my story I pretend to listen enthusiastically to her story. It turned out to be rather good. It features a rampant young entrepreneur (we’ll call Carl) at her school. Katie provides Carl with locker space. Hidden in the locker is a treasure trove of crisps, cakes and other goodies. During the break the young man markets and sells his wares to fellow students. On some days he makes up to £50 per day! Unfortunately, he was nabbed and the venture forcibly dismantled. His punishment was to hand back all the cash to all the students. All his merchandise was confiscated and disposed of. The affair brought back to mind an argument with Sir Alan Sugar at a public event. He got himself all bent out of shape when my PR guys asked his PR guys to endorse my book The History of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs. That day he appeared a man looking for an argument. One of the things that disappointed me about Sir Alan was an answer to an enquiry by a young female Asian post graduate. With Sir Alan now being the Enterprise Czar, she gave him the story of her being somewhat press ganged into academia. She added it would be a great idea to have career guidance officers become more familiar with entrepreneurship as a career alternative. Sir Alan blew her out of the water saying “did they hold a double barrel shot-gun to your telling you to do blah blah.” A number of people felt it was too dismissive. And actually career officers ‘should’ be trained to provide information on entrepreneurship as an alternative career choice. Anonio Semler started his entrepreneurial career at school. Extract from History of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs …Antonio Semler was one of those rare visionaries, with the strength of character to act on what he saw as the coming future. He got it right and the company grew into a major exporter, with factories dotted about Brazil. His teenage son Ricardo was a first-class bum, who loved frolicking around on his guitar (he was tone deaf), but when it came to business he could really rock and roll. His earliest venture was the reorganisation of a lunchtime snack stand at his school. He increased the operation’s hours, played suppliers off against each other, and put a halt to freebies. The budding entrepreneur made a little money and promptly invested it on the stock market. He made enough to fly all those involved off to a holiday resort. After leaving school Semler was enrolled in Brazil’s top law school, scraping through with Ds… Richard Branson started his entrepreneurial career at school. Extract from History of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs …Branson’s next venture was born out of dissatisfaction with the school’s rules and a new interest in journalism. The school’s existing magazine was too timid for his ideas on school-rules reform. So he and Jonny decided to launch their own inter-school magazine called The Student. Branson and Gems contacted MPs, sold ads, and travelled up and down from London. After securing one-on-ones with 1970s A-listers such as Vanessa Redgrave, David Hockney, Mick Jagger and John Lennon, interviews were easier to get. The headmaster’s perceptive parting shot to Branson in 1967 was in writing: “Congratulations Branson, I predict you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.” He was right – but on both counts…. Aristotle Onassis started his entrepreneurial career at school. Extract from History of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs …Whilst attending his school’s graduation ceremony, a friend of Onassis’s tried to console him about his very disappointing results by saying: “Don’t worry, you’ll get yours next year.” Onassis reacting sharply saying: “Idiot! Do you think I’m going to hang around here? The world’s a small place. I don’t need a diploma. One day you’ll be amazed by what I can do.” Most of the great entrepreneurs left school early. It might be necessary to do so if they want to develop their peculiar opportunity based thinking (Schemataa). Early manifestation of entrepreneurial thinking should be treated in the same way a student who show exceptional talent for Maths or English. Along with my niece Katie, Carl was also enrolled on Arrival Education programme. Not at the schools behest mind you. Arrival’s programme will not only keep kids in school, keep them excited about the future, but it will probably help earn millions for the UK. God knows the country needs help paying its debts! The children are literally our future. http://www.arrivaleducation.com http://www.youtube.com/user/shillingford1000?feature=mhum http://www.facebook.com/ronshgillingford#!/profile.php?id=100000951976695&ref=ts firstname.lastname@example.org
In January 1503, Columbus established a garrison at Rio Belen, Panama. The garrison was attacked by the indigenous natives so in March he again had to flee. Columbus now had to cope with unfriendly waters. The ship limped as far as Jamaica with Columbus and his crew stranded hundreds of miles from the nearest Spanish settlement. In desperation, a few individuals were sent out in canoes to cover more than one hundred miles of open sea to seek aid. They made it to Hispaniola in August, but the Governor there despised Columbus so much it was almost a year before a vessel was dispatched to rescue them.
Columbus had devised an ingenious plan to ensure his survival in Jamaica. He threatened the natives he’d make the moon bloody and damaged if they did not submit to his authority. The natives laughed. The following day the moon appeared just as he predicted and the natives submitted to the all powerful Columbus. He so frightened natives they brought food and supplies for Columbus and his crew. Of course it was simply an eclipse of the moon on February 29th 1504. Columbus had a copy of Regionmontanus’ Ephemerides astronomicae, which predicted the event.
Columbus’s methods were
often unproductive. His entrepreneurial ambitions blinded him to the plight of others and he often caused chaos, creating many enemies. But he died a rich man on May 2nd 1506 in Valladolid, Spain.
John D. Gartner, a psychologist and author of “The Hypomanic Edge” states “If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus. If you’re hypomanic, you think you are God’s gift to technology investing.”
Davis Segal, writing for the New York Times, wrote “the attributes that make great entrepreneurs, the experts say, are common in certain manias, though in milder forms and harnessed in ways that are hugely productive. Instead of recklessness, the entrepreneur loves risk. Instead of delusions, the entrepreneur imagines a product that sounds so compelling that it inspires people to bet their careers, or a lot of money, on something that doesn’t exist and may never sell.”
At the time when the great Christian medieval city of Constantinople (in modern day Turkey) was falling to insurgent Muslims (the Saracens) invading from the east, Muslims (the Moors) were being pushed out of (Al Andalus or modern day Spain) Europe and into the sea by the Christians in the west. The shift in the global balance of power, at first, appeared to disadvantage the Europeans. The sacking of Constantinople blocked their easterly trade route to lucrative Asian markets. The Christians are forced to look for an alternative route. Columbus emerges as the ‘manic hero’ who rescues Europe by travelling west into the unknown reaches of the Atlantic Ocean in search of India. But he was driven by a lot more than adventure and gold. Columbus believed the Saracens stole his noble legacy.
Columbus was a cavalier entrepreneur driven by manic ambition and emotional needs. As a child he listens to his father Domenico, a humble cheese and wine trader, telling him stories of great adventure of times gone by. Toddler Christopher hears how, against all advice and all odds, fellow Italian, Marco Polo found a trade route to China and began trading with the east. He is also told of the legend of Colombo, a Christian noble descendent of an emperor of the now Muslim city of Constantinople. Christopher believing he is a direct descendent of these nobles, becomes hell-bent on re-establishing his family’s lost status.
What made Columbus a successful entrepreneur was his mania.
This is where individual herd members follow the actions of others. They make the same choices that others appear to be making, despite their own private reservations, and signals maybe receiving quite reliably. It’s a reliable process when the individual being imitated made a choice based on some information received and rationally deliberated upon. But it can go awry when everyone thinks that the herd members are making decisions this way but they are in fact making decisions based simply on imitating the actions of another. The whole thing comes around full circle ending up with decisions being made not because there is some useful knowledge circulating and directing the herd but by incestuous decision making based on nothing other than imitation unbeknown to the herd.
Surowiecki cites the example of from American naturalist William Beebe who came across a huge circle of ants in the Guyana jungle. They were just travelling in huge a circle about 350 metres in circumference. Biologist call this a “circular loop” Surowiecki explains, and it occurs when the ants get separated from their colony. They kept going around and around until they just drop dead, Beebe explained the ants have narrow job descriptions with narrow channel of information. The colony works because the ants are programmed to react and follow each other. However, when one breaks off in the wrong direction, and is not pulled back by another with better information and better direction, the whole colony maybe plunged in a circle of hell relying upon luck to avoid disaster.
Surowiecki points out that American economist and psychologist Herbert Simon, who is widely viewed as one of the most influential social scientists of the 20th Century, speculated that mimicry was so central to the way we lived that we must be genetically predisposed to be imitation machines.
The Herd Instinct, chased with euphoric hormones, is a cocktail that helped drive investment banks into a cavalier mentality in their mortgage based investments. Cash became increasingly available as result of selling these mortgage contracts, bringing forward their returns on mortgage deal from say twenty-five years to one year. This meant there was an abundance of money available for new, easy-in mortgage offers offered to all and sundry (including the notorious a subprime market) which fuelled property prices. This in turn led to hoards of ‘sheeple’ getting into getting involved in buying property using cheap mortgages, imitating adventurous speculators on programmes such as Property Ladder hosted by channel 4’s busty gravel voiced presenter Sarah Beeny. The result was a property bubble that had fed on itself and eventually had to burst. Lehman Brothers was the first to go and when it did it caused wide spread global banking contagion.
Norbert Wiener Norbert Wiener 1894-1964founder of the field of Cybernetics was concerned with the interactions between animals (machines too) and ‘environmental-feedback’ creating perpetual action and reaction, generated by self-evidencing purpose. It led him to believe “The more we get out of the world the less we leave, and in the long run we shall have to pay our debts at a time that may be very inconvenient for our own survival.’ ‘Progress imposes not only new possibilities for the future but new restrictions’.
Eighteenth century (Meiji period) Japanese entrepreneurs were able to compete with major western heavyweights by evolving a ‘super hunting pack’ called the Zaibatsu which means quite literally plutocracy or rule by the wealthy. During the 19th Century powerful family companies organised themselves into a horizontal monopoly. Any individual or company wishing to enter into a market place had to be approved by the Zaibatsu. After WWII America, military occupiers of the defeated nation of Japan, banned these organisations in a bid to curb the powers of the ruling elite. As a result of the cold war and a desire to keep Japan from succumbing to soviet influence, the Americans loosened their, post WWII, controls and Zubaitsus were allowed to evolve this time into the Keiretsu, which literally means “series”. This allowed the pack to reform but as vertically structured corporations controlling market share by deployment of subsidiaries. It allowed Japanese companies to compete favourably in global trade wars.
American gangster Lucky Luciano formed a predatory pack by turning erratic groups of competing cut throat ‘families’ into an efficient cohesive business organisation. He saw great opportunity in his local changing environment and made clear to all competing factions that if they “…are ready to join forces….” he could stabilise the overall business making it less volatile and more profitable.
John D Rockefeller formed one of the greatest packs in history – Standard Oil. Rockefeller, enormously generous with those who wanted in, was ruthless with those who wanted go it alone. Those who did not join his trust were punished severely by being forced out of business. Standard Oil would employ tactics such as dropping prices and force the target out of business. Those who joined were given valuable stock and salaries among other things.
Rockefeller’s most famed alliance with Henry Flagler instrumental in Rockefeller’s great success. Flagler would go on to help build much of modern Florida. It was Flagler who introduced John D Rockefeller to the idea of a Standard Oil trust to be precise the creation a super pack. Flagler was the introducer of Rockefeller to Samuel Andrews. Andrews was a refinery specialist who ‘dragged’ Rockefeller in the oil business kicking and screaming. William Avery Rockefeller, John D’s brother had his own independent career and became very successful. He was also brought into the Andrews’ refinery pack.
The team they built was incorporated as the Standard Oil Company in 1869. Standard held about 10% of the oil business at the time of its formation. John D Rockefeller was the alpha male of the alpha males. He never sat at the head of the table during the Trust’s meetings. Emotionally intelligent, he knew that managing egos was important. So sitting among the alpha males in the boardroom discouraged envy and decent.
Consequently, a single lioness on the beat patrolling the pride’s territory, can allow free riders in the group to sprawl about lazing in the afternoon sun. If this pattern were to persist the group would eventually perish. Greed may be good for the individual but in a complex society such as the large neocortex human, one man cannot cover all bases all the time when pursuing large game. “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary” Wilson and Wilson quote from The Quarterly Review of Biology: To take down big game you have to work in an altruistic and reciprocal pack.
George Lucas is one of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s recent signatories in their campaign to ‘save the world’ (I now regard these guys as genuine heroes).
Lucas is renowned for his generosity previously stating “I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race.”
The two wealthiest men in the world started the The Giving Pledge in June 2010. The official website which can be accessed by the linked provided below outlines the aims and objectives of the pair to address some of the ills that plague the world.
But is the drive to save the world derived from the same source that allowed them to dominate the commercial world? Darwin and Dawkins would argue that the great philanthropic undertakings of Bill Gates can find its incentive in competitive self-interest. Many evolutionary psychologists suggest individuals seeking power find being nice as a means of achieving status. A hundred years ago the two richest men in the world, Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller, competed to become richer than one another then began competing to give it all away faster than one another!
Kim R Hill and Keith Kintigh of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University published an article called, Can Anthropologists Distinguish Good and Poor Hunters? Implications for Hunting. In the paper they wrote they analyzed data of more than 14,000 hunter days during twenty-seven years of monitoring the Ache tribe of Paraguay. They concluded that it was difficult to determine individual skill levels of hunters by looking at the returns they made. But what was clear was a strategy of giving and distributing the spoils of a hunt brought the hunter great prestige. I suppose it only when the hunter starts to distribute the food he killed you actually realize how great a hunter and provider he actually is.
It could be interpreted that the actions of “Big Men” like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller is the act of supreme hunters reinforcing their hunting prowess by distributing their kill with overwhelming generosity. Warren Buffett (worth $52 billion and rising) announced in June 2006 (aged seventy-six) his intention to giving away the rump of his wealth he spent a lifetime hunting. Bill Gates also announced in June 2006 he’ll be taking a back-seat in Microsoft and scheduled a 2008 retirement to concentrate on the ‘great give away’. Bill and Warren are preceded by the likes of John D Rockefeller, George Peabody and Andrew Carnegie who all tried to give away virtually all their money before their deaths.
Much was made of Bill Gates increased contribution to charity soon after fellow billionaire Ted Turner criticised his lack of philanthropy. Turner is a multi-billionaire media mogul and chairman of the United Nations Foundation. He has a habit of calling out rich guys and challenging them to donate more money. In 1997 Turner pledged $1 billion to the United Nations Foundation an organization he set up himself. Turner’s $1 billion contribution to United Nations rescued them from debt and disrepute in 1999. This made Turner a very “Big Man”.
In early 2009 Ted Turner challenged actor Ashton Kutcher in an online race to raise money for mosquito nets using his Twitter community. Turner applauded his adversary saying “Congratulations Kutcher, your Twitter followers really came through for you …But World Malaria Day is only the beginning. We need to send more nets and save more lives. And you don’t have to be Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey to make a difference you just need $10. If 10,000 more people joined the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign, I’ll have you and Demi over for lunch at Ted’s Montana Grill in Atlanta. Hope you like Bison Burgers…”
 Incidentally Ted Turner inherited his father’s billboard company when he was twenty-four after his father shot himself dead and Ted also often speaks would often speak about his own suicide or being murdered. The debate on is suicide hereditary continues. Did Ted Turner inherit entrepreneurial genes along with his preoccupation and possible predisposition to suicide?
 I recall an interesting exchange between P Diddy and his former mentor Andre Harrell on TV. Harrell had been invited on to P Diddy’s TV show Making Da Band. He unfortunately couldn’t hide his excitement and joy at some of the performances of those being auditioned (it’s a kind of reality TV show). This was at odds with P Diddy’s requirement a solemn and unexpressive countenance during performances from his assistants. “Big Man” is a colloquial phrase often used in the urban community to show respect when dealing with or making a sensitive point. P Diddy must have tried to quiet down Harrell a couple of times using the phrase “Big Man” like ‘calm down and relax ‘big man’ when Harrell turned around and said to P Diddy “ you’ve got one more Big Man”. Which meant ‘I know you’re being respectful but I’m getting fed up of you’. It was amusing enough for the broadcaster to use it as a trailer for the on-coming series.