Sunday, January 22, 2006

Are creative people entrepreneurs? 1st attempt

Here I am making a brief examination of how the four or was it five? aforementioned characteristics of entrepreneurship fit with the profile of creative industries people.

Entrepreneurs are prepared to take risks

This got me thinking. Are all folks that go through creative industry type courses* entrepreneurs? Based on the highly competitive fields that we are training people for aren't those creative individuals taking a risk on their own talent, future employment, financial and not to mention emotional well-being (i.e if it doesn't work out and it doesn't always). Do they make an investment in their talent and hope it pays dividends?

The Entrepreneur manages resources, knowledge and power (as opposed to being an employee and having those things managed by other people)

Levels of self-employment within the creative sector are very high. In some sectors as many as 80%* of individuals are self-employed. With over 42%* of creative industry graduates having had some level of self-employment in the first five years of graduating.

Doesn't sound like employee material to me ..although note to self :- must remember to ask esteemed colleague about entrepreneurship through necessity, survival...When that is the only employment option!

They are in pursuit of profit (although this may come in the form of something other than money) but lead us to question how do we measure 'other' types of profit?
Now this is a strange one, you see and this is anecdotal, from my own experience and backed up by a series of recent interviews. The motivations for people within these sectors are often around full-filling a creative need, not being an employee, not selling out or giving up, doing a better design, building a bigger profile, being 'known' for being good at what they do. The motivation is never cited as being financial although all recognise that this is a requirement of staying in business and continuing to do what they want to do. In terms of this profiting them I need to think about this one.

Personal satisfaction is a major motivator
As above - this is a major motivational factor in this sector and a major reason for folks pursuing the self-employment route.

Their relationship to opportunity: they tend to either seek it, create it or recognise it and presumably exploit it!
In a recent piece of research I was involved in, that looked at social inclusion in the creative industries, one of the major barriers to beneficiaries (individuals who took part in the project) becoming or sustaining self-employment was there inability to do any of the above, sometimes these were the most talented individuals but there inability to exploit, recognise, or pursue opportunities set them apart from others. There maybe many reasons for this but what it did identify was that in this sector where talent is at such a high premium without the opportunity its not worth having. Incidentally the groups who were targeted for that piece of research were from communities who were vastly under-represented in the creative industries and had even lower levels of self-employment.

* I will dig out the references for these stats, mainly from the Destinations and Reflections report (1999)


Pete said...

Don't know where your five characteristics of entrepreneurship are from but here's my opinion...

Prepared to take risks

Using the same rationale, are Doctors and Engineers taking the same risk when investing in their talent and hoping it pays dividends?

Manages resources, knowledge and power

So does the employee of a creative. The one with the power is often the PA who decides which calls to put through and who the owner manager meets. Different people bring different skills to a creative company, that is it's strength. There is the same necessity for an employee as an owner.

Pursuit of profit

Not sure how this differs in definition to the next one about personal satisfaction really. I'm also not sure how a lawyer who is known for the good job they do and yet is employed can't enjoy the same fulfillment.

recognise opportunity AND know how to exploit it

This one hits the nail on the head and is the main reason why truly entrepreneurial people succeed where others don't. Many people can recognise opportunity but creative individuals can't always exploit!

I'm not meaning to sound arsey btw. I've read back and it sounds like i'm a very critical sort, which i'm not! I'm mearly playing devils advocate

Mark McGuinness said...

Hi, nice blog! Lots of things of interest here.

Re creative people / entrepreneurs, I think you and Pete both have valid points, but it's really a question of degree - most of the things you say are arguably true of all workers, but they are usually true of creatives and entrepreneurs to a greater degree. And some of them are more/less true of creatives than entrepreneurs.

Prepared to take risks
Yes Doctors and lawyers also take a risk, but most people would probably agree that it's a safer bet financially to study medicine or law than it is to invest all your money in a performance poetry show about an ice-skating Roman Emperor. (Whether it's a safer bet mentally or emotionally is another question entirely...)

Manages resources, knowledge and power
Again, everyone does this to some degree, but entrepreneurs and creatives typically look for much more autonomy, and are more likely to personally identify with the resources - for the entrepreneur it's often their own cash they invest, for the creative, their identity is inextricably bound up in their work. This means they have a very hard time being told what to do, so are less likely to be satisfied with being employees.

Pursuit of profit
I agree with Pete that this one is linked to the point about personal satisfaction. This is where personal values come into it and create a kind of 'alternative currency' that coexists with and may even supersede monetary currency.

No-one does anything for nothing - but we value different things. So someone who works in a bank because it makes them financially secure even though the work isn't what they would ideally like to do, is valuing money above personal fulfilment at work. Many artists have the priorities the other way round. I put the idea to a well-known poet that although not many people make a lot of cash out of poetry, there was definitely an 'alternative economy' in which the currency is reputation - he agreed immediately but also said that whenever he meets up with fellow poets it's not long before the conversation turns to how to earn more cash...

Another example is open-source programming, a world I don't know so much about, but apparently some programmers talk about 'egoboo' (i.e. ego boost through recognition/appreciation of their work) as the reward for spending lots of time developing software for free.

I can't remember where I read this, but someone summed up the difference between the creative and the entrepreneur by saying the owner of an iron foundry works in order to make money; the artist earns money in order to work.

recognising and acting on opportunity
I think this is the key to success for entrepreneurs AND creatives. I was reading Bob Dylan's autobiography last night and he was describing the moment where he got to play the Gaslight club, the best and most exclusive in Greenwich Village, and the one that gave him his big break. He'd been staking it out for weeks, when one day the singer Dave Van Ronk (who ran the show at the club) appeared at the Folklore Center while Dylan was hanging out there. Van Ronk was playing around on a guitar - the moment he put it down, Dylan grabbed the guitar and asked if he could play him something. VR agreed, liked what he heard - and invited Dylan to play that night.

Now THAT'S grabbing an opportunity!