The Entrepreneurial Cook

I was listening to Little Bets by Peter Sims this morning on my run with the kids. Peter mentions a study by Saras Sarasvathy that I found quite interesting.

The study titled What makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial?, examined how entrepreneurs make decisions.

Entrepreneurs and MBA students use two completely different approaches when performing a new task. To illustrate this point, Saras used an example of cooking a meal. MBA students did better when given a menu, ingredients and a fully stocked kitchen. On the flip side, entrepreneurs thrived when sent into an unfamiliar kitchen, where they had to explore the cupboards and decide on something to make.


The MBA cook’s meal would be more predictable, and probably tasty. The entrepreneur’s meal could be a flop, or it could be a run away success.

This reminds me of my Dad’s cooking style. “Let’s see what we got in the kitchen” he’d say. Rummage around the cupboards, throw something together. It usually turned out good, sometimes even great. Of course, there are times that the MBA student’s approach might have been better, but where’s the fun in that!?

My parents often went out of their way to support the little entrepreneur in me, but I never before thought of how the simple act of my Dad’s cooking planted the entrepreneurial seed in me.

When knowledge is abundant, as in the MBA student’s kitchen, procedural planning approaches work quite well. In an entrepreneur’s kitchen, the cook is forced to create, fail, and try again. This process can lead to lasting change and innovation. Or, to steal from Peter Thiel, it can take the meal from Zero to One.


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