A lesson from the textbooks: Entrepreneurship can solve many problems. Creative, innovative approaches to meet unmet needs or solve unsolved problems should result in business success because people are provided with things they want and need.
But people don’t always want what’s best for them. Think: donuts, lounging around, fossil fuels, alcoholic beverages, toxic relationships, too much social media, deep fried anything, 18 pairs of shoes, etc. You can add more things you love but aren’t part of a well-balanced diet, lifestyle, mental health, positive relationships, and/or eco-friendliness. We all have some wants we fulfill, and others we abstain from for the very reason they aren’t healthy.
Sometimes, people don’t know they want things until they exist, and their friends have them. Examples (in the right time frame) include: cars, social media, cell phones, electricity, antibiotics, robo-floor sweepers, a home assistant that answers questions about Finland, toxic mushrooms, or who the actors were in that movie, etc.
We’d generally agree that entrepreneurship that provides clean water everywhere, access to internet connectivity, credible information, more effective drugs with fewer side effects, home heating solutions that don’t damage the environment etc. is a good thing.
Conclusion thus far: entrepreneurship is good when, and if, it solves real problems people may or may not realize they have.
Is entrepreneurship still good if it provides something people want, but may not really be a problem?
The seven deadly sins reflected the sorts of things that people tend to want, and will pay for, but aren’t really good for them. My favourites are lust, vanity, gluttony (consuming a lot of everything), and slot (laziness).
Never mind if entrepreneurship could be the answer to everything – should it be?
How much convenience is too much? People benefit from exercise, so perhaps entrepreneurs shouldn’t eliminate all tasks requiring any amount of physical work. I’ve always viewed doing household chores as a great way to keep in shape. You might respond: entrepreneurs are coming up with more convenient and efficient ways for people to exercise. Hummm…
Similarly, any number of entrepreneurial do-dads that help people organize their diet, shopping, calendar, obligations, wardrobe, pet exercise, closets, oil changes or whatever may be appealing but what is being exchanged for this convenience: jobs? environmental protection? personal wellbeing and self reliance?
My reflection on whether entrepreneurship should be the answer to everything, part 1, concludes with a philosophical consideration for entrepreneurs:
Sometimes eliminating a problem is not the answer. It’s seeing the problem in a different way. Entrepreneurship, at its creative best, might know to tread in another direction when the human want is a problem better left unfulfilled.