Instinct: Tapping Your Entrepreneurial DNA to Achieve Your Business Goals

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The first book to combine business management and scientific studies shows how the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs may be inheritedand what you can do to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur. What exactly does it mean to be a born leader? Are some people naturally endowed with characteristics that lead to success? Could success be the result of something in our DNA? Instinct explores the radical new concept that business success is based on cell biology, evolution, and genetics. Thomas L. ...

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Overview

The first book to combine business management and scientific studies shows how the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs may be inheritedand what you can do to make the jump from employee to entrepreneur. What exactly does it mean to be a born leader? Are some people naturally endowed with characteristics that lead to success? Could success be the result of something in our DNA? Instinct explores the radical new concept that business success is based on cell biology, evolution, and genetics. Thomas L. Harrison shows readers how to determine if they have inherited these genesand how to compensate if they are lacking some of these vital traits. An important and groundbreaking book, Instinct is sure to revolutionize the business and science worlds for years to come.

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What People Are Saying

Tom Peters
"Could there possibly be any ways left to parse 'success'? My loud and clear answer, after reading Tom Harrison's INSTINCT, is a resounding 'Yes.' This is a thoroughly original, engaging, scientific and counter-intuitive take on success and entrepreneurial behavior. I have but one bone to pick: I dearly wish this book had been available to me 20 years ago!"
bestselling author of IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE and RE-IMAGINE
Earvin "Magic" Johnson
"The mark of a successful businessman is the ability to innovate and adapt. In INSTINCT, Tom Harrison shows you how to unlock the abilities you already possess, and how to obtain the ones you don't. A must-read for anyone who's ever dreamed big."
Five-Time NBA Champion and CEO of Johnson Development Corporation
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446576840
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/22/2005
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Instinct


By Thomas L. Harrison Mary H. Frakes

Warner Books

Copyright © 2005 Thomas L. Harrison
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-57684-0


Chapter One

The Critical 50 Percent: Doing Your Genetic Inventory

When Kay Koplovitz was three years old, she begged to be allowed to accompany her older sister to kindergarten. "I'd ask my mother, 'Why can't I be in kindergarten too? I know my way; I can find it.' So I went off on my own." Teachers tried to send her home. It didn't work, says Koplovitz: "I'd turn around and come right back."

That same kind of determination later led Koplovitz to be ahead of her time in another way when she founded the USA Network, becoming the first woman to head a television network. Koplovitz didn't have a traditional background for becoming a corporate leader; like me, she studied science in college. But that led her to spot an opportunity: the idea of delivering broadcast programming via satellite to cable companies instead of over telephone lines, as the three broadcast networks did.

Koplovitz may not have gone to business school, but she had an entrepreneur's belief in her idea and her ability to make it successful. "I didn't think it was risky," Koplovitz says. "You could just see the opportunity. For me it was as though it had already been written, like it was a historical fact, even though it hadn't occurred yet. I was more certain that it would be successful than I was of a lot of other things. I do think there's something innate about people's tolerance for risk."

Personality is determined by many things, but scientists are beginning to find that a lot more of you is built into you when you're born than we used to think. Scientists now believe that roughly 50 percent of the differences in our personalities is inherited. In working with many entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial thinkers over the years, I've come to believe that the inherited combination of personality traits that is unique to each human being is the basis for whether we will eventually become successful.

The DNA of success is really your DNA of success. Understanding it can help you make better career decisions and keep you evolving in a direction that can make you successful, no matter how unconventional your career path may seem. The DNA of success is especially important for anyone who is considering being an entrepreneur. Any venture starts with an opportunity, a person, and an idea. Unless that person has entrepreneurial DNA, the idea probably won't get very far.

ARE ENTREPRENEURS BORN OR MADE?

There's some evidence that entrepreneurial thinking tends to run in families. In some cases, families actually produce whole crops of entrepreneurs. One example is that of John Bogle Sr., and John Bogle Jr. Father and son each launched their own separate businesses in the mutual fund industry. In doing so, they were carrying on a tradition that had started generations earlier. Philander Bannister Armstrong, grandfather of Bogle Senior, created Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company. Grandfather Bogle was involved in the formation of a canning company. And there may be yet another generation to come. John Bogle Jr. says he sees a contrarian, risk-taking attitude in his daughter. His son is more cautious, but already displays the analytical orientation that characterizes his father and grandfather.

The Bogles are just one example of a family with an entrepreneurial streak. One Seattle family includes nine entrepreneurs spread over three generations: Larry Mounger, his two sons and two daughters, and four third-generation cousins. Twin brothers Ted and Fred Kleisner are another example. Fred is the president and CEO of Wyndham International; he was formerly president and COO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which includes the Westin, Sheraton, and St. Regis chains. Ted is president and managing director of the world-famous Greenbrier Resort. Not only are the two men leaders in the same industry, they are also third-generation hoteliers.

I even see it in my own family. Both my sons have already demonstrated entrepreneurial instincts. As college freshmen, they studied to get real estate licenses so they could make some money during their student years, and one has already told me he wants to start a company after he graduates. My daughter has produced a CD of her own music and is selling it. In fact, all of my three children may be born entrepreneurs. They used to sell seashells at the Cape May, New Jersey, seashore. People could walk on the beach and pick them up themselves, but for some reason they bought them from my kids.

Multiple studies have shown that having at least one self-employed parent increases the chances that a person will be self-employed. Are genes at work here? If so, how? Or is it simply a case of learning by example-imprinting, as we trained scientists say? Is the entrepreneurial instinct created before baby's first breath, or when Mom or Dad helps set up a lemonade stand in the front yard, as Pam and I did for our three children?

Being exposed to an entrepreneurial environment early in life clearly is important; we'll look at how and why in Chapter 2. And it's true that some entrepreneurial skills must be learned. No one is born knowing how to put together a good business plan, get financing, or juggle the myriad tasks involved in a start-up.

However, environment doesn't explain everything. Many of the successful people interviewed for this book said they grew up watching entrepreneurial behavior in their family, but just as many said exactly the opposite. When you deal with a born entrepreneur, you usually know it.

"For those who do it over and over again, I think there's probably something innate about them," says Thomas Kinnear, executive director of the University of Michigan's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. "Somewhere down in those chromosomes there's gotta be something. My brother's an entrepreneur, my grandfather was an entrepreneur, his father was an entrepreneur. What is it? I've been involved in nine start-ups. Even though I'm a teacher, I can't seem to let go."

Time and time again I have seen eager people come into my office with what seems like a good idea. They may have a great proposal, they may be a lot smarter than I am, they may even be very personable. But the ones who eventually succeed seem to have something else-something that goes beyond smarts, an idea, and being willing to work hard.

Where does that come from? To begin to get at that question, it helps to think about the difference between entrepreneurial behavior and the entrepreneurial personality. My dad ran a neighborhood grocery store; that's entrepreneurial behavior. People who exhibit entrepreneurial behavior may or may not be successful, and entrepreneurial behavior isn't necessarily passed on. The entrepreneurial spirit can be expressed in many ways that have nothing to do with starting a business.

"Nobody's yet found [a specific genetic link], but anecdotally you sort of see it. Even though children of entrepreneurs tend to regress to the average, they probably are more entrepreneurial than the standard average, at least for a few generations," says Kinnear. "Of course, if they get too rich, then they become Paris Hilton."

Where biology may play a role is in creating a genetic foundation for personality. Instinctively pouncing on opportunity, being unstoppable in pursuit of a vision, being able to persuade others of the value of your idea-those are some of the marks of thinking like an entrepreneur. They're also the qualities that help make you successful today, whether you run a grocery store, lead the development and launch of a major product or division, need to revive an ailing corporation, or spearhead a community project.

At this point, no one can provide a definitive answer to the nature-versus-nurture question-certainly not me. But scientific research is beginning to confirm what I've suspected for a long time, based on my exposure to hundreds of entrepreneurs and other highly successful people over the years: that it's not all learned behavior. In the 1950s, many scientists thought we were simply a product of our environments-little rats in boxes being trained to press a lever for rewards. However, there is more and more evidence that some aspects of personality are partly genetic. Even if you didn't come from a family of entrepreneurs, you may still have basic personality traits that give you a head start in entrepreneurial thinking.

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that genes play an enormous part in our personalities. After all, the basic genetic code we all share controls everything from eye color to our risk of having certain diseases. It only makes sense that those genetic instructions might also affect how each individual brain absorbs and responds to what's going on around it.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND INHERITING AN ENTREPRENEURIAL PERSONALITY

To understand how the entrepreneurial spirit might get inherited, let's step back and look at how genes affect us generally. Genes contain the recipe for how every cell in our bodies develops. Every cell has a copy of all the information necessary to produce an entire human being; that's why Dolly the sheep could be cloned from a single cell. Genes don't just affect hair color, height, and whether we go bald. The role of genes in increasing the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease is becoming clearer every day.

It's easy to see that genes influence physical problems and traits. However, scientists are now discovering that our genes affect how we behave, too. The success of the Human Genome Project has enabled scientists to begin to connect what happens in our cells and what happens in our brains. They have found links between genes and increased risk of alcoholism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obesity, depression-even smoking.

We've only begun to explore just how our genes create a predisposition to such behaviors. Some scientists believe it's because genes direct how our brains develop, before and after we're born. Genes may program some of us to develop more circuitry in certain parts of our brains than others. For example, women have been found to have more connections between the right and left sides of their brains than men do. Others believe mechanical processes are more important than developmental ones. Genes guide our brains in producing and processing the chemicals, such as dopamine, that affect our moods. Some believe it's a combination.

Whatever the process, the most important point is this: Our understanding of just how important our genes are and how they shape our day-to-day behavior is in the infant stages. With the decoding of the human genome, we've just started to unlock these secrets. Companies are already marketing genetic tests to consumers who want to know how vulnerable they are to illness, or how well their bodies process nutrients, drugs, or environmental stresses. I believe by the time my yet-unborn grandchildren are my age, we'll all know parts of our genetic code and what they mean for our lives in the same way we now know our cholesterol levels.

GENES AND PERSONALITY

I heard a story a while back that reminded me of the mystery of genetics. A man was watching his four-year-old son do what kids do: show off. As the father watched, something seemed strangely familiar about the dance the little boy was doing. Suddenly he realized that the boy's movements were exactly the same as the dance the man had watched his own father do as an elderly man. Since the boy's grandfather had died thirty years before the child was born, he couldn't have somehow learned the steps.

As I said earlier, scientists have found that roughly 50 percent of the differences in our personalities are linked to our genes. Any parent knows that some children are born with a sunny disposition, physical gracefulness, or a thirst for learning-and others, even in the same family, simply weren't. Children display a personality early on that can't necessarily be explained by their upbringing. (I can hear every parent out there heaving a huge sigh of relief.)

Researchers in the emerging field of behavioral genetics have begun to turn up some fascinating examples of just how strongly inheritable our personalities are. Countless studies have demonstrated striking similarities between twins separated at birth. Here's a brief sample of the kinds of discoveries scientists have made in recent years:

* In one famous example, identical twins who were reared separately tended to have similar occupations, senses of humor, habits, and opinions.

* A person's overall level of happiness and well-being seems to be largely genetically determined. Researchers found that they could predict a twin's happiness better by looking at the other twin's happiness than by looking at educational achievement, income, or status.

* Genes seem to affect the tendency to start and to continue smoking.

* Differences in how one specific gene gets copied seem to affect anxiety levels. One variation of that gene has been linked to self-confidence and cheerfulness; a different variation seems to promote chronic anxiety.

* One switched letter on yet another gene seems to affect whether someone tends to be chronically depressed. That is even more remarkable when you consider that we have an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 genes, and roughly half of those are considered "junk DNA."

* In one study of men in New Zealand who were treated badly as children, the activity level of a specific gene seemed to affect whether the men later became criminals. Those in whom the gene was very active turned out okay; those with less activity were four times as likely to become criminals.

* Scientists have been able to make mice more aggressive by knocking out entirely the functioning of one gene. Replacing it calms the mice down. (And before you say "I'm a human, not a mouse," remember that we share roughly 98 percent of our genes with mice.)

* One study of 700 teenagers and their parents found that genetics accounted for anywhere from 71 to 89 percent of a teen's score on antisocial behavior, depression, school performance, and social responsibility. (Ironically, the study had intended to show the impact of friends and other influences, not genes, on teen behavior.)

Some scientists are even beginning to go beyond saying that our personalities are influenced by our genes. They've started linking certain aspects of our personalities to specific genes. For example, a craving for novelty has been linked to the long version of the D4DR gene, although this finding has not yet been fully confirmed.

One recent study is particularly interesting. Comparing leadership behavior and personality characteristics in twins, researchers have found that genes account for roughly 30 percent of the differences between people in terms of having a track record of leadership. Almost all of the rest was accounted for by what's called "non-shared environmental influences"-in other words, life lessons, events, and the impact of other people outside the family. In fact, family seemed to have very little statistical connection.

My days in the lab are long behind me, so I'm not in a position to validate scientifically any individual research project. But they demonstrate that we have only begun to understand just how strong that influence is. Collectively they make a case for genetic influence on our personalities and behavior.

And they certainly support my own observations over the years that some people naturally have an innovative bent, work habits, risk-taking tolerance, and problem-solving talents that contribute to business success. These people may have learned skills that enhance those tendencies. They may also have had an environment that encouraged those tendencies through either positive or negative reinforcement. But like ivy climbing a wall, those learned skills and that environment also had something on which to build. Having that foundation doesn't mean those lucky people are predestined to become successful. It simply means they probably started out with an extra helping of certain qualities that tend to promote success.

"My mom has told me, 'The older you get, the more you're like your dad,'" says Herman Cain, former chairman of Godfather's Pizza. "Both my mom and dad were people persons. I inherited that orientation toward people. My dad was more of an extrovert than my mother; he was like a magnet. He would walk into a room and people would be attracted to him. Quite frankly, I inherited that."

Richard Branson is known for outrageous behavior to promote the Virgin Group. As a young adult, Richard Branson's mother demonstrated similar daring. She became a chorus girl-"My parents were shocked"-and persuaded a flight instructor to let her pilot a glider ("He said I could do it as long as I dressed like a man."). To make money to help support her family, she made and sold objets d'art.

"Arthur had that tenacity," says Molly Blank, mother of Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank. So did she. After her husband died, she took over the pharmaceutical supply company he had started and ran it successfully before eventually selling it.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Instinct by Thomas L. Harrison Mary H. Frakes Copyright © 2005 by Thomas L. Harrison.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2006

    A scientist analyzes the DNA of entrepreneurship

    To a great extent, entrepreneurial genius is a matter of nature, not nurture. So it¿s all too easy to look at a wildly successful entrepreneur, such as Bill Gates, and simply shrug with resignation. But that would be a mistake, argues author Thomas Harrison, a scientist-turned-entrepreneur who sets out to crack the genetic code of successful business owners. His approach is laudable both for its creativity and its utility. You are very likely to gain practical insights into your personality from Harrison¿s primer about the entrepreneurial genome. At times, Harrison allows his analysis to become too general, and, indeed, no one can hope to offer the final word on beings as complex as ambitious entrepreneurs. Still, we recommend this innovative study of enterprising personalities to any ambitious entrepreneur (or potential entrepreneur) in need of a little constructive introspection.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2005

    Not for entrepreneurs only

    A friend recommended this, and I'm glad I read it, even though I was skeptical (I'm an entrepreneur, but not a science buff.) This is the first book I've seen that looks at how to take advantage of what we're born with, and makes it interesting and useful. It shows how our genes can actually be affected by what we do, and how our genes affect the situations we put ourselves into. Wish I'd read this early in my career. Might have saved me a lot of wasted effort and mistakes if I'd recognized and valued my genetic assets earlier instead of trying to force myself to be something I'm not.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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