Well, obviously it isn't completely dead – one only has to look around forums like this to notice that.
But, in the self-trumpeted, in-your-face way that dominated so much of the 1990s and early 2000s business agenda, dead it most certainly is.
In many ways that is good but in significant other respects we are losing the upside along with the arrogance and the claimsmaking.
Up until a couple of years ago the “entrepreneur” was seen everywhere, from start-ups to self-proclaimed “entrepreneurial”disciples deep within the bosom of long-established multinationals. They were, apparently, even spotted here and there amongst the Public Sector, though I must admit to never having come across one in this environment myself.
And now they seem to have gone away, scattered to the four winds by icy blasts of recession.
All of this came home to me the other day when we were reviewing support options for newer entrants to the big incubator facility in which I work. It was on more sober disciplines such as planning, marketing, funding and IT strategy that the focus naturally seemed to settle.
“Entrepreneurship” as a stand-alone subject seems to have gone from the agenda.
I suspect it is because it got robbed out of a lot of its valuable meaning during the good times. Declaring oneself an entrepreneur, outside the natural habit of innovative start-ups, became the equivalent, when all was well, of saying “all of this success round here, I deserve credit because I was more responsible than most for making it happen.”
And claiming to be a start-up entrepreneur became too easy, too, with the declaration itself casting away the drudgery of proper attention to detail in the mad rush to create one's own get-rich-quick scheme.
In capturing the sense of commitment, iconoclasm, persistence and sheer bloody-mindedness necessary to craft any new business, particularly one with the potential for a bit of scale, the term “entrepreneur” still carries some merit. But that is all “entrepreneur” ever meant. It didn't have the breadth or the force of a fundamental movement, of a credo for lasting development.
Entrepreneurship is a spark – and we need to recapture and rehabilitate that very necessary sense of what may be possible because, as I look around me at the broad scene today, it is becoming dangerously innovation and risk averse.
But beyond the spark we need the substance of a sustainable fire. Entrepreneurship could never provide this – and through these over-expectations it has become so easily debased and then largely jettisoned.
Whether you choose this rallying call, or one of your own reflective choosing, do watch out for the next time every Tom, Dick and Harriet declares themselves an entrepreneur; it'll be the false pride that comes just before a major fall.