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Posted 5.10.09

"The American Dream” for many involves opening their own business and calling themselves entrepreneurs. Yet, contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurship is truly not for everyone. Professor Scott Shane, author of Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By — an Amazon.com editors’ selection as one of the Best Business Book of 2008 — is delving into the science side of business by examining the genetic foundations of entrepreneurship and other aspects of work-related behavior.

Working with St. Thomas Hospital in the United Kingdom and Tim Spector, author of Your Genes Unzipped: A Guide to How Your Genetic Inheritance Can Shape Your Life, Shane is exploring the data from twins for his study. Early findings show that nearly 40 percent of people who become entrepreneurs is genetic. Moreover, the same genes that account for the tendency to be noveltyseeking also influence the tendency to start a business. Shane’s research suggests that an inborn intolerance of the mundane is behind the decision of some people to become entrepreneurs.

Shane’s book, DNA in the Work Place: How Our Genes Affect Our Work Life, demonstrates that a component of entrepreneurship, leadership, job satisfaction, and even earnings is innate, and that people’s genetic make-up affects many dimensions of organizational behavior. “A lot of times business schools think that we can teach everyone to become entrepreneurs or leaders; all we have to do is get the incentives and training right. In reality, efforts to educate people, or to change the organizations in which people work, can only have so much effect. Some portion of what leads a person to become a leader, or start a business, or be a happy employee isn’t something managers can change. It’s literally inborn,” said Shane.

Shane adds, “The textbooks and management consultants need to acknowledge the limits to what we can do to influence organizational behavior. They also need to think about the implications for business people of a growing understanding of the genetic basis of workplace behavior.”

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