On May 4th, we dis­cussed, what entre­pre­neur­ship has to pro­vide for the future and what it takes to be successful.

How do you act in an entre­pre­neur­ial man­ner in a world where growth is no longer a mat­ter of course? What do entre­pre­neurs need in order to be suc­cess­ful in this future? And why do we need entre­pre­neur­ial indi­vid­u­als even more in the future than until now?

These ques­tions were dis­cussed on May 4th at WIFI Linz. As a dri­ving force for new food for thoughts, ACADEMIA SUPERIOR chair­man Michael Strugl has invit­ed the Ger­man social-sci­en­tist and chair­man of „Denkw­erk Zukun­ft” Dr. Mein­hard Miegel to Linz.

Distress results in Entrepreneurial Spirit

Miegel showed on the basis of his­tor­i­cal com­par­isons, that entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it and thus change and inno­va­tion, have always been strongest, if peo­ple were dri­ven to become active by neces­si­ties. „To act in an entre­pre­neur­ial man­ner means to go against the cur­rent and to make efforts. Only a cer­tain lev­el of suf­fer­ing stirs the desire to take action and to improve a sit­u­a­tion”, Miegel said. Because entre­pre­neurs con­stant­ly have to swim against the cur­rent in order to change some­thing they them­selves con­stant­ly have the feel­ing of being harassed by oth­ers. This is because every­one who tries to change well-worn pat­terns and to cre­ate some­thing new is usu­al­ly per­ceived as trou­ble­mak­er and there­fore is met with rejection.

An Entrepreneurial Society — A Young Phenomenon

Mein­hard Miegel point­ed out that his­tor­i­cal peri­ods with­out entre­pre­neurs have always been times of stag­na­tion and that the social frame­work always was cen­tral to the devel­op­ment of entre­pre­neur­ship. But despite dif­fi­cult live-con­di­tions in the Euro­pean Mid­dle Ages, entre­pre­neur­ship could hard­ly devel­op because of rigid social norms and val­ues which nar­rowed the oppor­tu­ni­ties for indi­vid­ual engage­ment and ambi­tion. Main­ly because of this low occur­rence of entre­pre­neur­ship, the eco­nom­ic growth at those times was very low: it took 1,000 years to dou­ble the aver­age eco­nom­ic out­put per capita.

Numer­ous social changes – espe­cial­ly the trend of sec­u­lar­iza­tion since the Age of Enlight­en­ment – led to rad­i­cal changes around the year 1800. New val­ues and the reduc­tion of social bar­ri­ers and lim­its on all areas, unleashed an entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it in Euro­pean soci­eties, which was respon­si­ble for the major­i­ty of the rapid and pos­i­tive devel­op­ments over the past 250 years. In just the fifty years between 1900 and 1945, the aver­age eco­nom­ic out­put per capi­ta dou­bled in Cen­tral Europe. And over the next 50 years, this fig­ure increased five­fold again. This shows impres­sive­ly: Who­ev­er pro­motes the entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it in a soci­ety pro­motes progress.

The End of Growth

How­ev­er, this tremen­dous devel­op­ment in a rel­a­tive­ly short peri­od of human his­to­ry also has a down­side: It was pri­mar­i­ly based on the exten­sive use of nat­ur­al resources in Europa and the entire plan­et. But these, as Dr. Miegel stressed out, are appar­ent­ly reach­ing their lim­its now: „All devel­oped coun­tries con­sume more resources than they have. The Unit­ed States, for exam­ple need about 4.2 globes to sat­is­fy their needs. To con­tin­ue eco­nom­ic growth for­ev­er as we know it today is impos­si­ble. The absolute con­sump­tion of resources has to be reduced in the long run”. Con­se­quent­ly, he argued, we are cur­rent­ly fac­ing a steady decline of growth in all areas.

A Revolution of Efficiency and Sufficiency is needed

What we need in the future, is not sim­ply more eco­nom­ic growth. Most of all, we need more effi­cien­cy in all areas in order to extract as much as pos­si­ble from our nat­ur­al resources with­out risk­ing the liveli­hood of the yet unborn gen­er­a­tions. In this process, entre­pre­neurs have a cen­tral role to play for Miegel: „Entre­pre­neurs are called to bring the people’s needs into har­mo­ny with the real­is­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties”. With­out entre­pre­neurs, devel­op­ing new solu­tions to those prob­lems, we, as a soci­ety, will impov­er­ish rapid­ly and fail in the long run.

But if we depend on more entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it in all social and eco­nom­ic fields to solve these chal­lenges (a sub­ject which ACADEMIA SUPERIOR has been point­ing at for a long time), „than we need to talk about the mind­set, which is nec­es­sary in a coun­try in order to stim­u­late ideas and start-ups”, Michael Strugl stressed out. He agreed with Miegel, that we need a new kind of growth: „We do not sim­ply need more, what we real­ly need is bet­ter. We need strate­gies which com­bine qual­i­ta­tive growth and eco­nom­ic necessities.”

Society – an Inhibitor of Innovation?

But today our soci­ety dis­cour­ages too many of its poten­tial­ly com­mit­ted indi­vid­u­als from devel­op­ing an entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it. Here it is impor­tant to pay atten­tion to our youngest and to con­vey them already in the kinder­garten-age with the joy of com­mit­ment and innovation.

We need a devel­op­ment away from an envy based soci­ety and towards mer­i­toc­ra­cy. Michael Strugl brought this to the point: „An envy based soci­ety only asks: Why does he have it and I don’t? While the mer­i­toc­ra­cy asks: How could I achieve that?”