Bernardo M. Villegas
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Why Misfits Make Good Entrepreneurs

          I always enjoy reading the column entitled Schumpeter in The Economist.  Among several reasons, Joseph Aloysius Schumpeter was my favorite economist in the last century.  Although he had passed away in 1950 when I entered Harvard in 1959, legendary stories about his genius abounded in the Department of Economics of my alma mater.  He is especially famous for his theory about economic development being a product of the entrepreneurial spirit.  He contributed such phrases as "creative destruction" and "clustering of innovations" to the literature of economics.  In fact, I personally believe that he would have been rated a greater economist than John Maynard Keynes if he had published his trail- blazing book Economic Development earlier than Keynes' General Theory of Income, Employment and Interest.  There is no doubt in my mind that Schumpeter was the epitome of the renaissance man, whose knowledge was encyclopedic.  His book "History of Economic Analysis" is indeed an encyclopedia of economic thought.

          In the June 2, 2012 issue of The Economist, the writer of the column "Schumpeter" aroused in me memories of 1989 when then CRC College of Arts and Sciences (now part of the University of Asia and the Pacific) launched the first ever undergraduate program in Entrepreneurial Management that since then has been copied by dozens of educational institutions.  In many ways the EM Program was ahead of its times.  It already recognized the fact that the Philippine educational system was handicapped in comparison to all of our Asian neighbors for not having the K + 12 curriculum in the pre-university phase of basic education.  At the risk of being labeled a dumping ground for male high school graduates who did not make the grade for such quality universities as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo and De La Salle University, we  (I was then Dean of the CRC CAS) went out of our way to identify   "misfits" who were academically challenged but manifested through psychological tests and interviews that they were especially creative and daring, two  of the most important qualities of an entrepreneur according to Schumpeter.

          Well, note what The Economist's columnist wrote last June 12, 2012: "Entrepreneurs also display a striking number of mental oddities.  Julie Login of Cass Business School surveyed a group of entrepreneurs and found that 35% of them said that they suffered from dyslexia, compared with 10% of the population as a whole and 1% of professional managers.  Prominent dyslexics include the founders of Ford, General Electric, IBM and IKEA, not to mention more recent successes such as Charles Schwab (the founder of a stockbroker), Richard Branson (the Virgin Group), John Chambers (Cisco) and Steve Jobs (Apple).  There are many possible explanations for this.  Dyslexics learn how to delegate tasks early (getting other people to do their homework, for example).  They gravitate to activities that require few formal qualifications and demand little reading or writing."

          Among the high school male graduates that we accepted to the first batches of our" EM Program, there were a good number with ADD (Attention-deficit disorder).  Despite some hesitation from some members of our faculty, I took the risk of admitting them.  Many of them are now very successful entrepreneurs.  My amateur educational theory is somehow vindicated by the following information contained in the article "In praise of misfits":  "Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) is another entrepreneur-friendly affliction:  people who cannot focus on one thing for long can be disastrous employees but founts of new ideas.  Some studies suggest that people with ADD are six times more likely than average to end up running their own businesses.  David Neeleman, the founder of Jet Blue, a budget airline, says:  'My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.  With the disorganisation, procrastination, inability to focus and all the other bad things that come with ADD, there also come creativity and the ability to take risks."

          These findings of psychologists should inspire  technical schools, colleges and universities to offer programs that will take graduates from junior high school in the K + 12 curriculum who have difficulties with their academic studies because of dyslexia, ADD or other handicaps but can make good entrepreneurs.  They can be given some remedial courses in their last two years of senior high school coupled with business courses such as accounting, marketing and other subjects that can prepare them for an entrepreneurial role. As we did and are still doing in the EM program of UA&P, schools offering similar programs should include a big dosage of values education and character building components of the curriculum to ensure integrity and social responsibility among our future entrepreneurs. Then, a college or a university can offer them a two-year program that will guide them to actually start a business.  They can be awarded an Associate of Entrepreneurship after these two years and do not have to pursue a bachelor's degree which they do not need to be successful entrepreneurs.    After all, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg never got their bachelor's degrees.  For comment, my email address is