Entrepreneur Psychoanalysis Report from INSEAD

Human Resource Management, INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France; The European Institute for Business Administration (INSEAD), Boulevard de Constance, 77305 Fontainebleau Cedex, France.

Paul Kedrosky twittered about the Ananomy of an Entrepreneur today.  I found this article facinating because there has always been a debate “are you born an entrepreneur .. or can it be taught”.  This research suggests that you are born with it.   This was Paul’s comment which I had the same reaction …“Gosh, sounds like most of my friends — okay, and me for that matter. I’m particularly fond of the line about “difficulties in the regulation of self-esteem”. You mean we entrepreneurial sorts are often preening, irritating blowhards? What a surprise.”   

Here is the entire intro paragraph from the report written by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries 

In psychoanalytic theory, studies of work behavior have been relatively scarce. Most of the existing literature concerns itself with cases of work inhibition or compulsion. Occasionally, one finds a discussion of people in the creative professions. No attention has been paid, however, to a major contributor to economic development in society, the entrepreneur. This contrasts sharply with the amount of attention given to entrepreneurs by other disciplines. The object of this study is to better understand the dynamics of entrepreneurship, and in particular the work behavior of entrepreneurs. First, there is a brief overview of the role of work in psychoanalytic theory. Then a number of factors important to entrepreneurship are reviewed from the perspective of economic, sociological, anthropological, psychological, and organizational theory. A case history is presented of one entrepreneur who chose to be treated through psychoanalysis. The intensity of this type of treatment means that continuity in observation is provided. This case study therefore offers a unique insight into the complex “inner theater” of one particular entrepreneur.

Previous research on entrepreneurship has identified a number of themes common among some entrepreneurs. In the entrepreneurial theater a need for control, a sense of distrust, a desire for applause, and resorting to primitive defensive mechanisms such as splitting, projection, denial, and the flight into action (“the manic defense”) appear to be common. The behavior of a number of entrepreneurs also seems to have a cyclothymic quality. Moreover, for many of them, their narcissistic development tends to be of a “reactive” nature reflecting difficulties in the regulation of self-esteem. This case history illustrates these themes, and furthermore, shows that running a business is not necessarily a rational process. On the contrary, in many instances, the process seems to be more a question of retrospective “rationalizing” of decisions already made. Finally, inferences are made about the person-organization interface by identifying some of the characteristics of the dramatic organization, a configuration typically created by a number of entrepreneurs.


Author: John

Entrepreneur living in Palo Alto California and the Founder of SiliconANGLE Media

One thought on “Entrepreneur Psychoanalysis Report from INSEAD”

  1. I have a layman’s observation of startup and inventor types, of which I am one:

    We can’t stand being told ‘what to do’, especially if the delegation of orders conflicts with how ‘we would have it done’.

    Numerous startup folks have told me that this is what drove them to go solo, despite some having cushy and secure jobs.

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