The illusion of Skills in Creativity

Why are there so few creative serial entrepreneurs – business people who start successful companies one after the other? We know about Sudhir Ruparelia, Mulwana (RIP), Steve Jobs (RIP) and Richard Branson, but they represent a tiny minority. Serial entrepreneurs account for less than one per cent of everyone who starts a company.

Actually, you would assume that such self-starters who are blessed with talent, a good personal network and a solid reputation would be well equipped to found numerous other start-ups. So why do they stop? They didn’t stop. They just failed at succeeding. Only one answer makes sense: luck plays a bigger role than skill does.

Let’s take a sober look at business or creativity success. How much of it comes down to luck, and how much is the fruit of hard work and distinct talent? The question is easily misunderstood. Of course, little is achieved without talent, and nothing is achieved without hard work. Unfortunately, neither skills nor toil and trouble are the key criteria for success. They are necessary – but not sufficient. How do we know this? There is a very simple test: when a person is successful for a long time – more than that when they enjoy more success in the long run compared to less qualified people – then and only then is the talent the essential element. This is not the case with company founders and creatives; otherwise, the majority of successful entrepreneurs would, after the first achievement, continue to found and grow second, third and fourth start-ups.

In conclusion: certain people make a living from their abilities, such as pilots, plumbers and lawyers. In other areas, skill is necessary but not critical, as with entrepreneurs. Finally, chance is the deciding factor in a number of fields, such as in financial markets. Here, the illusion of skill pervades. So: give plumbers due respect and chuckle at successful financial jesters.