And if entrepreneurs grow by the middle, like a crazy herb?

Written by Raffi Duymedjian & Guillaume Ferrante


They grow everywhere. They invade the spaces along the walls to further mark their capacity for creation, adaptation and resistance. We treat them either as crazy when we have the poetic spirit and they emphasize the creative part of nature, or bad when we are about to wage a war against them.


Another grass manages to maintain its ambivalence more durably: bamboo.

Bamboo is an herb, a rhizome more precisely, whose majesty is the measure of the puzzle it represents for gardeners. Its spread is extremely difficult to control and requires a concrete wall deeply buried in the ground to stop its progression.


The herb is not supposed to have the bulk to be the main character of an article on ... entrepreneurship! And yet ... when Steve Jobs is chased out of Apple by John Sculley, he reappears as the bamboo like the founder of Pixar or NeXT. It is the same with these serial entrepreneurs who disappear here to come out in a different light, and nothing seems to stop them. How can these herbs, crazy or bad, refine our understanding of entrepreneurship?


A rhizome contains a reserve organ (like a handyman's stock) that allows it to move horizontally, taking advantage of the weaknesses and hazards of the soil to expand. It bifurcates without warning and proliferates in all directions so that it no longer has a truly determinable origin. To understand it, it is necessary to be able to catch connections connecting "any point of the rhizome with any other point", in no particular order, unlike the order of succession that the tree imposes on us.

Steve Jobs perfectly illustrates this rhizomic movement during his Stanford speech. He defends in particular the idea that:

« You can’t connect the dots looking forward ; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. »


If he had the idea to make the Macintosh the first typographic computer containing real fonts, it is because he followed his instinct 10 years earlier by enrolling in a free calligraphy course. However, this "because" does not mean a planned intention, a "connecting the dots loocking forward" but rather a risky meeting and from which Steve Jobs has created value "by looking backwards". The trajectory is not calculated in advance, but follows various lines that meet distant points in time and space, highly heterogeneous (calligraphy <=> computer), meetings that are frequently guided by serendipity.


Rethinking the idea of ​​a heroic entrepreneur

Understanding the entrepreneurial process as a rhizomatic deployment could in the first instance reinforce what has become common today about these Y and Z generations who are meaningful and expressive of their desires, seeking to replace rigid hierarchies with more flexible horizontal networking. This generational movement is fuelled by an entrepreneurial "storytelling" touting a sort of heroism, modest in that everyone can claim to succeed in the entrepreneurial venture.


It is enough, to a certain extent, to follow the footsteps of modern day heroes like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, who replaced the figures of the great scientists in the early 1980s.



Think the encounter as the heart of the entrepreneurial process

The entrepreneur reading this text may be able to recall the key moments in his thinking and his business creation project: such discussion with such person, such meeting during a party or in an incubator, such text read in a train, such a poster seen in the street or waiting for the bus ... as many meetings unfolding as a rhizome and ultimately leading to a Eureka that could also be schematized as the young bamboo that is extracted from the ground to gradually take shape and assert itself.

As the rhizome progresses and forks through encounters, by those moments when the situation puts him/her in the uncomfortable situation of not understanding what is happening, of not having the words to say the event that occurs under their eyes.


Finally, the rhizomatic vision of the entrepreneurial process places less emphasis on the success of rationally defined stages than on the multiplicity of moments in which the entrepreneur is disturbed by what he/she encounters. It emphasizes the need to be on the watch and, at the same time, to be open to surprise. Above all, it evacuates the idea of ​​heroism by removing the question, become idiotic, of the origins of the entrepreneurial project.