Don’t be an entrepreneur, build systems


This past June, TedxOxbridge premiered at SBS.  It was a provacative day of big ideas on how we can rethink business for the 21st century. It featured entrepreneurs, academics, social innovators, designers and behavorial scientists – who were all asking “How can we imagine Business as Unusual?”

All videos from the day are now up on the TEDx site. Personal favorites include:

But perhaps the one video getting the most pick-up is by SBS’s very own Professor Marc Ventresca.  Marc, an economic and organizational sociologist, proposes a bold critique of the “entrepreneur”, suggesting that greater, large-scale value creation comes  from system-builders, not entrepreneurs. It’s an arguement for networks, collaboration and connectivity across institutions – rather than a focus on the “heroic individual”.

Harvard Business Review’s Grant McCracken recently picked up on Marc’s talk.  According to the HBR piece, Grant pushes back on the notion of entrepreneurs as systems-builders. He argues: “Real acts of innovation are something more than acts of combination.” In other words, the role of the entrepreneur is not to re-assemble, but to work “de novo in the production of real novelty.”

What do you think? Who and what is an entrepreneur?

Read the full debate (including live commentary between the authors) on HBR and leave your comments below.