We often think of entrepreneurs as rare geniuses who create ex nihilo.
While this image has value, it’s not the full story. They cannot create new matter, and they have nothing but our world to work with. Even so, they are able to create wealth which did not exist before.
How do they do that?
Entrepreneurs have what economist Israel Kirnzer called “alertness to hitherto undiscovered opportunities.” That’s a fancy way of saying that 1) they see the way things already are and 2) take the things that are and recombine them in new ways that solve problems for people.
Those new ways of combining resources – from wheels and engines to sugar and soda water – are what create entirely new markets or marginally better products. Wheels and engines existed before they came together in the automobile. Sugar and soda water both existed before they came together in Coca-Cola. Wheels and suitcases existed alongside each other until they were recombined in the rolling suitcase. Some dudes just put two and two together to remix what already existed into something that created new value and new wealth in the world.
Wealth creation is a semi-magical thing if you really get it.
The same things which may be meaningless to one person can be worth their weight in gold if recombined and delivered to the right person with the right wants. Value comes into existence from that intangible process of discovery and remix.
Coming off the heels of another wedding (we’re in the season for it), I couldn’t help but notice how the process of marriage mirrors this entrepreneurial process.
Marriage, like entrepreneurship, is a recombination of resources – in this case, the ultimate resources of two human lives, with all of their learning, all of their wisdom, all of their strengths.
Before you meet a partner, some of your own strengths and some of their strengths may be underused, undervalued, or even unnoticed. The act of combining yourself with another person can unleash the creative potential of both you and your partner in a way that has not existed before.
Your medical skills may not have had a chance to shine except in a marriage. Your music career may have needed a kick in the pants from a spouse. Your love for interior design may have needed real-world expression in married life. Whatever it is you bring to a union like this, – personality, weakness, goals – you can expect it to be transformed.
If you’re lucky, that transformation will be for the better. If it is, you’ll be creating new value for yourselves and new value for everyone around you. And you’ll still be the same two people, fundamentally unchanged.
With marriage as with the entrepreneurial process, the new, different, valuable things are spontaneously emergent properties of creative union. But unlike the goods and services that entrepreneurs act upon, a marriage is the relationship of two entrepreneurs who both get to decide how they combine their lives to create value for themselves and the world.
Like I said, it’s semi-magical.