Entrepreneurship from Irrationality

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things.
Rationality is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason. Rationality implies the conformity of one’s beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, or of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action

We, humans, are hardwired in such a way that we need a “reason” for action, and the process we use to trigger actions based on such “reasons” is what we call “rationality”.

These “reasons” can be moral or factual, so our actions are, depending on the nature of the “reasons” they are based on, ethical or practical, and this way we ensure that our actions are an effort to materialize a philosophical or practical framework that is aimed to lead us to a higher end, whether moral or material. Or so we think.

“Reason” is the mean our genes invented to convince us to do what they want.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Researches, such as David Kanneman, have found that the basic driver of this “rationality” process is not reason, but bias, and the fact that this bias is hardwired in the very “rationality” process implies that humans are more prone to irrationality than to rationality, without hope.

But, what would we humans gain out of a biased vision of the world? Because, sure, this trait is an evolutionary outcome, which means it is good for our survival. These are my ideas about it:

Ancient brains

We are social animals, we started creating clans, then tribes, and now we entrepreneur. As social agents, we benefit just by being part of a group, but we can increase or odds to survive or having offspring by reaching also a high rank inside that group (presidents don’t go to war, right?).

Social animals must prove that they are the best bet for the survival of the group in order to be accepted as leaders and, for most of them, it is a matter of physical power: the largest antlers, the largest fangs, the largest body mass, and so on.

But we humans are very week animals, even a chihuahua runs faster than us. So to prove that we are the strongest one doesn’t imply that we can defeat any attacker and defend our group.

We humans are basically intellectual animals, and our way to higher ranks in the hierarchy of the group is through intellectual means: we have to “be right”. Arguing is our version of measuring our antlers, or our fangs.

This needing to “be right” is the evolutionary force that drove our brains to become very efficient for “being right”…even when we are not. We MUST “be right”, and the best way to ensure it, is to eliminate any possibility of not to.

So, for our brains to be very good on convincing others of its arguments, it must start by convincing ourselves, and it does so through a mechanism described by Kanneman as conformed by two systems, wich ensures that we first attempt to use with ourselves an off-the-shelf argument that is selected using an heuristic approach (System 1) that, rather than ensure rationality, it aims to ensure our “rightness”. Only when this at-hand strategy doesn’t work, our brain appeals to an actual analytical argument (System 2).

This system 2 is the one that actually derives a course of action out of the evaluation of the situation, rather than the other way around, as System 1 (biased) does. But letting System 2 to come into action is dangerous for our needing to be always “right”, because a real analysis of the situation might give that we are not, which is dangerous for our hierarchy climbing possibilities if we consider that “being right” is the equivalent of having the biggest fangs.

So, for our brains to allow System 2 to come into action, it must ensure we apply an ultimate measure to attempt to avoid it: our emotionality. We feel really mad when our moral or practical framework is challenged, and we react with anger to defend it.

Only when this last barrier is overcome, we have the serenity to allow System 2 to do its stuff, and it’s then when we have the possibility to observe the reality without the emotional biases that our needing to “be right” imposed to us, even when this reality implies a revision of our base philosophical framework that is, in the end, a very valuable asset in our hierarchy harvesting effort.

Applying this ancient brain to the modern endeavor of Entrepreneurship

This brain designed to deal with the surviving issue our ancestors had in mind most of the time, is the same brain we use when we decide to entrepreneur. How is it doing? It seams to be working right, isn’t it? Well, I doubt it.

The avalanche of dazzling unicorn start-ups stories seem to indicate that our brain is great at rising new endeavors from the ground right to the skies, and beyond. But this is just an illusion.

The great majority of start-ups fail. They perish after a few years of effort, commitment and passion from their founders. Only a handful of them succeed to dazzle the world and surrounding its founders with an aura of geniality and all-proof rationality.

The reality is that each entrepreneurship is a very personnel, highly emotional endeavor. And we know what emotionality means in the context of hierarchy harvesting or, in the case of entrepreneurship, transcendence harvesting, that is what entrepreneurs seem to believe they are searching for.

All entrepreneurs believe they have some sort of receipt for success in the form of an activity, a process, a field or a domain that they have identified as the key for delivering some value to somebody, in such a way that it justifies the belief that the endeavor is feasible, and it happens that, for some reason, they are very proficient, highly skilled and really passionated about such activity, process, field or domain. I have never heard an entrepreneur saying “I think that in order to succeed as entrepreneur, you should have this or that trait that, by the way, I don’t have it or I am very week at”.

So, in the end, what we, entrepreneurs are doing. is to create a pice of world where our personal traits are the most valuable ones in advance and de facto.

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