Nature Vs Nurture

In anthropology, psychology, and psychiatry, one of the theories that is often discussed relates to whether certain actions and activities are the result of nature or nurture. In so many ways, this ‘nature Vs Nurture’ question is also the same in business, and how it affects the next steps taken by any business – especially early stage ones that are growing.

In the past, I have compared sportsman with entrepreneurs, and looked at how they both have similar personality traits in many ways. This is true not just with sportsman but with others that need determination, tenacity, and a sense of self belief, and where they are backed up by an inner group that supports them in every way possible.

In so many ways all of this can be looked upon as part of the nature vs nurture debate. Some founders and some companies seem to ‘get it’ instantly but, in reality, these are relatively few and far between. The vast majority of entrepreneurs and early stage businesses are not lucky enough to fall in to the ‘nature’ category. Most companies have to go through the whole steep learning curve experience that moves it more along the spectrum from nature and much more towards nurture, and this in turn will always have an influence in what are the next steps that any business will take, and when and how these are taken.

There is one argument, therefore, that supports the theory that with experience comes wisdom, and the more experience that a person has then the greater their knowledge will be. But we have all witnessed people and businesses that continue to make the same mistake time and time again, and never seem to learn from previous errors. So, whilst many do learn from the past, and nurture plays a role, this is far from certain.

Alternatively, there are many examples from startups to unicorns where the founders have no prior experience, but nevertheless seem to posses a natural ability to just know what to do, and do it extremely well. Indeed, as a young business grows and matures the qualities that are required from the CEO often change considerably. Some founders certainly seem to be born to be able to handle everything that a growing business will need all the way through the journey, but some are better with smaller or larger businesses, but not with both. This in turn can very easily mean that a founder that had the initial vision and who was perfect in the early days of the business can be outgrown by the needs of the business changing as it grows. This can necessitate the need to bring in a new CEO with a different skillset.

When hiring staff, it is often said that it is much better to hire someone that has the right attitude and approach, as well as the desire and ability to learn, rather than to hire someone that has all the relevant knowledge but has become rather fixed in their ways. This is because someone with the right approach can be taught the details more easily than getting someone that is fixed in their ways to go outside of their comfort zone. This same approach can be even more important when it comes to running a business, rather than just being an employee. 

Some founders are certainly born to it by nature, and others grow into it by nurture. Whilst there are undoubtedly benefits to both, there is no doubt whatsoever that mixing both nature and nurture will always provide the best solution. But there is also no doubt that finding the two in the same person can be a challenge. In view of this, the best solution is ensuring that the nature part is right, and if this is not enhanced already by the nurture part, then this can be supplemented with external input and advisors.