On the road to becoming a policy wonk, I somehow became an entrepreneur. It was an unexpected turn of events, but after graduate school at Columbia University found myself sucked into the startup world instead of working on Capitol Hill. It was partly because I was a twenty-something during the first Internet boom and almost everyone was working on a technology startup. It was the fact that my parents were serial entrepreneurs in brick and mortar businesses that increased the likelihood that I would also become some type of entrepreneur. But the most important factor that I often forget is my belief that human beings are made in the image of their creator, God, who is the ultimate creative and entrepreneur.
I believe we reflect God’s characteristics, so people are meant to be creators and entrepreneurs. Whether on a small or large scale, whether in art or business, or a daily task or a decade long project, we were made to enjoy the process and labor of creating something out of nothing.
To learn more of God’s character and wisdom as an entrepreneur, you don’t have to look further than the first book of the Bible or Torah, Genesis, which I would describe as the universe’s first startup. When you examine the creation story, it truly was the first startup in history and it provides some insights even for today’s entrepreneurs.
Happiness is the Great Productivity Tool
As you read the first chapter of Genesis, you realize during each stage of creating the universe and the earth that God enjoys his work. He recognizes what he has made, acknowledges “it was good” and takes great satisfaction in it:
“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:11-12
While this seems obvious from modern management research and numerous books on the topic, we have the earliest example in Genesis of how happiness helps to optimize productivity. God is tasked with his most important work, the creation of the universe, and his mood isn’t somber, serious, or sad. There is delight and joy as he completes each stage of his work.
Planning is Critical
As I read and reread Genesis, it becomes very clear that God is a planner. He’s very thoughtful and organized as he develops the universe and the earth. He doesn’t create birds before the sky or fish before the oceans are created. Each stage is logical and necessary before the other.
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail” – Winston Churchill
It is something that is easy to forget or pass over during the chaos and winds of startup life, but important to think through. I don’t believe this means to write out a fifty page business plan, but I would suggest for every entrepreneur to at least plan out objectives for your company and product or service, the financial needs and understanding any critical milestones and timelines that you need to achieve.
Wisdom of More Than One
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27
Mainstream Christian theology views these verses as a looking glass into the New Testament concept of the Trinity of God. Three divine people coexisting in one entity. Without diving deep into the theology, let’s assume we are made in the image of a divine and complex team of three people.
This reflects a truth of human dynamics and a driving factor of success for startups: teams are better than individuals. There are various studies that show the probability of success exponentially increases when a company has more than one founder. There is a jump from one to two and a continued increase in the rate of success from two to three co-founders and there is a plateau after four. The most famous research has been conducted by MIT’s Edward Roberts related to success factors for technology startups, which confirmed the importance of having at least two co-founders for your new business venture.
Over the years, I’ve conducted dozens of survival simulation training sessions, which examines group decision-making versus individuals’ in harsh, life-threatening environments (i.e. Death Valley or Antarctica). I have never experience a session when an individual scores higher than the group. Regardless of free riders or have a few weak links on a team, the team decision prevails and scores higher in the probability of the group’s survival over any single person.
I believe this reflects how we are created in the image of God and how we are wired. To optimize our success, productivity and decision-making, we were meant to work in teams. Genesis reveals this in the Trinity of God and even the creation of Adam and Eve. Adam’s responsibilities were never meant to be held alone, which is why God created Eve.
Transparency is the Best Policy
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'” Genesis 3: 7-10
From Genesis we first discover that transparency is the best policy for building relationships. Since in business, everything is done through relationships we learn the importance of transparency and honesty in the very first relationships of human history.
God’s original intent for Adam and Eve was to be naked. There was nothing to be hidden between God and his creations, but the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge changed all of this. Clothing became necessary to hide people’s shame and intentions.
Adam and Eve attempted to hide their newfound shame with fig leaves, but it was not enough to cover themselves so they hid when God came by. Similarly when a company first attempts to hide something, it is typically never enough. The public knows something is amiss, so it is better to bring everything out in the open. When a company’s culture becomes too clothed with sound bites, hidden agendas, and press clippings, relationships eventually turn sour and broken and communication becomes insincere and distant.
God’s wisdom was evident for me when I examined the creation story as the universe’s first startup. It was amazing to learn how insights from Genesis reflected today’s management research and practice. I assume there is more wisdom and insights for every entrepreneur to be found in the creation story, so please feel free to share here.
Bernard Moon is CEO of Vidquik and blogs at Silicon Moon.