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?”