The First (Unlikely) Significant Entrepreneurial Team?

21 December 2011 at 12:16 am 6 comments

| Peter Lewin |

Who was the most significant entrepreneur in the bible (old Testament)?

I ask my students this trying to lead them to Joseph. As a result of his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, not only he, but the whole of Egypt reaps enormous profit. He recognizes the meaning in the dreams and counsels Pharaoh on how to profit from impending misfortune — thus also alleviating the misfortune of many others (by investing in times of plenty to cover the looming famine).

But, thinking about this a bit more, one may argue that what we have here is a veritable entrepreneurial team. After all, it is Pharaoh who has the dream, the vision, though he needed Joseph to interpret it. One without the other was nothing — together they were everything. And then there is the fact that that Pharaoh exercises his judgment in believing Joseph. He takes a huge risk and elevates this lowly, condemned Jewish prisoner to the highest office. He puts aside his ego and courageously follows his better judgment. Surely Schumpeter should have been proud, no?

Entry filed under: Entrepreneurship, Former Guest Bloggers.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bo  |  21 December 2011 at 5:07 am

    Not sure this constitutes a top management “team” effort; rather it seems a leader that makes his decisions based on lower-level employee input…

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  21 December 2011 at 10:15 am

    Bo, in my terminology, Joseph was a proxy entrepreneur exercising derived judgment on Pharaoh’s behalf. (Of course, this assumes that Pharaoh was the legitimate “owner” of Egypt’s resources — otherwise, we have a host of public choice issues to deal with.)

    I wonder if the media pundits of Joseph’s day denounced him for speculating, profiteering, and price gouging?

  • 3. Bo  |  21 December 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Haha. I wonder if he was portrayed as an entreprenuer but then again some people see entrepreneurs everywhere…(I personally see none…)

  • 4. Peter Lewin  |  21 December 2011 at 7:12 pm

    @PK: Yes, it was probably also an early example of crony capitalism :-).

  • 5. Juan M  |  22 December 2011 at 11:12 am

    The talents parable ,about the enterpreneur, the financial speculator and the one who keep the money under the matress showing Jesus was a keynesian ,casts a enterpeneur who got 100% gross return on his invesment

  • 6. Peter Klein  |  22 December 2011 at 11:36 am

    I often use the parable of the talents to illustrate prospect theory’s concept of loss aversion!

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Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
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