MANAGEMENT gurus have chewed over the topic endlessly: is a flair for entrepreneurship something that you are born with, or something that can be taught? In a break with those gurus’ traditions, a group of economists and researchers from the World Bank, the National University of Singapore and Leuphana University in Germany decided that rather than simply cook up a pet theory of their own, they would conduct a controlled experiment.
Moreover, instead of choosing subjects from the boardrooms of powerful corporations or among the latest crop of young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Francisco Campos and his fellow researchers chose to monitor 1,500 people running small businesses in Togo in West Africa. These are not the sorts of business owners who give TED talks or negotiate billion-dollar mergers. The typical firm had three employees and profits of 94,512 CFA francs ($173) a month. Only about a third kept books, and less than one in 20 had a written budget.