by Max Nisen
There are many differences between the people inclined to take the relatively safe path of becoming a manager at someone else’s business, and those who take the leap and become entrepreneurs.
It turns out that extends to the way their brains work.
A recent study from MIT professor Maurizio Zollo scanned the brains of entrepreneurs and managers while they did two different types of activities, exploitative tasks, associated with optimizing a current or ongoing task, and explorative tasks, where you search for new ways to achieve broad goals.
There’s an interesting difference when it comes to explorative tasks. From Zollo’s post at MIT’s Sloan School of Management’s experts blog:
We found that when entrepreneurs performed explorative tasks, they used both the left and right sides of the frontal parts of their brains, the entire so-called pre-frontal cortex. In comparison, managers tended to use primarily the left sides of the frontal part of their brains. This is an important difference, as the right side of the pre-frontal cortex is associated with creative functions involving high-level thinking (like poetry, arts, etc.), whereas the left side is associated with rational decision-making and logical thinking. So, in a way, we found that entrepreneurs seem to be capable of using the entirety of their high-level thinking capacities (“executive functions”), while managers were more narrowly focused on rational and logical reasoning.
This doesn’t mean entrepreneurs are smarter or even that they explore more than managers. But when they do explore, they use their brains in a more complete way.
It’s difficult to say whether this is something that’s innate or trained. Entrepreneurs deal with very different problems and spend time on different things, which might account for the difference.
Zollo argues that the difference might explain the entrepreneurial penchant for risk. People who just reason with the rational and logical part of the brain might be a bit more risk averse. Those who can also make a case with the more artistic and creative part may be able to overcome that.