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Grammar and Entrepreneurship

I usually start every entrepreneurship class or seminar I teach by asking each of the participant to quickly give me, by turns, a synonym of entrepreneurship. The idea, until now, was to get a feeling of how much the students knew about entrepreneurship (and entrepreneurs) by analyzing the meanings of the words they gave me, and use that as a starting point for my “demystification”.

Last week, I was giving a 3 hours seminar to Supélec last year engineering students and of course I asked my synonym question as the beginning. But while I was writing down the words on the board I realized that some of them were nouns, some were adjectives and some were verbs. So instead of looking at the words’ meaning, I decided to do a little statistic on the word’s class.

Out of 11 participants in the classroom:

  • 7 of them gave me nouns (like “adventure”, “risk” or “financing”);
  • 2 of them gave me adjectives (like “energetic”);
  • and 2 of them gave me verbs (like “innovate”).

As crazy as it sounds, it made me realize that the words’ classes were even more representative of what students feel about entrepreneurship than their meanings.

Why? Well, as you know, nouns are usually used to describe concepts and since 60% of the class used nouns as synonyms of entrepreneurship, it seems that entrepreneurship is still very conceptual to them. Adjectives are used to describe a particular quality so for 20% of the class, entrepreneurship describes a behaviour (most probably of someone they know or how they imagine entrepreneurs). And since verbs typically express action, for just 20% of the class, entrepreneurship is about action.

For all you entrepreneurs that read me, you surely have realized by now what my point was: entrepreneurship is first and foremost about action, not about concepts and not about behaviour (perhaps a little though). Well, at least, this is how I started my seminar :)