by Elmarie Bouwer

 The spark plug3 with the ice-blue eyes

I had come to him for answers. Unprepared.

The blaze in his impossibly blue eyes pinned me to my seat and as he started talking, my misconceptions shrivelled away right there…right then.

The passion that exuded from him did not come from a text book in his extensive library. Or his multiple boardroom discussions. Or academic dons. Or anywhere else.

No. The fire radiated from within, showed in his eyes.

Until that moment, I often wondered what all his excitement all the time I had known him was about. If one wanted to get Mauritz fired up, just started talking entrepreneurship.

I never did understand its importance and unfortunately likened entrepreneurship to an optional extra, something like ketchup on your chips. You don’t have to order it if you don’t want to.

You see; in my faulty perception, I understood that we would never have any economic well being without business. Anywhere. Ever. Period.

If you’re confused because I’m right, just hang in there. Full explanation coming up…

But there is one part I never got.

His question from right across his ergonomic desk floored me and so did his answers: “Do we really understand the role this phenomenon has played in our survival on this planet?”1

Nope, I thought. Enlighten me.

So, many words and aha moments later, it dawned on me that the part I didn’t get was the fundamental role entrepreneurship played in all human decisions towards advancement from the very beginning.

The business “out there” I saw and appreciated would never even have been there to begin with, if it weren’t for entrepreneurial thinking!

See, in igniting me, Mauritz acted like a spark plug. Because his own understanding sparked mine.

However, spark plug action does not actually refer to Mauritz’s and my interlude, it refers to entrepreneurship.

Why a spark plug?

Entrepreneurial thinking is a lot like a spark plug.

How come?

Well, for a car to start, you need electric current to flow into the combustion chamber of a spark-ignition engine. Once there, it will ignite the compressed air/fuel mixture by means of an electric spark to get you moving.2

Likewise, you need innovative/entrepreneurial thinking before you can have any meaningful change to the status quo.

Let me give you an example.  Take Thomas Edison.  He is considered as one of the greatest inventors who ever lived. He gave the world the phonograph, the electric light and more than 1300 other patented inventions. He was also given to profiting from his inventions and as an inventor with an entrepreneurial flair, he stands unequalled. His impact on the way we live, is nothing less than staggering.4

However, none of those inventions would ever have seen the light, if Edison didn’t think them first. Thinking them first, was the spark that led to their physical manifestation. It ignited the fuel that changed the status quo, which changed the world.

Spark plug phases

In its evolving economic history, the world went from wearing nappies to graduating college. Here they are in a nutshell:

In the extraction phase in the beginning, man discovered how to extract metal from rock. Building upon this, this period was followed by the artisan phase in which man made artefacts from metal. The industrial phase followed this in the late 18th century where man learned to build machines with mass production capabilities.

This in turn led to many losing their jobs and becoming replaced by those very machines they built! Since all this production increased competition among the mass producers, marketing became necessary to gain a market share.

This marketing phase paved the way for customisation and niche marketing as the next phase. Now, with that too saturated, the world teeters on the brink of a new economic age, where revolutionary new products / services are needed to satisfy an ever growing global appetite and winning the favour of customers.

The point to make here is this: whatever the phase, entrepreneurial thinking and activity have been the trip switch that threw humankind into every subsequent phase that our world’s economy grew into.

Spark plug thinking is that fundamental to this planet’s economic growth and well being!

Some call this new economic age the information age. Or the age of intelligence. Mauritz wants to call it the Entrepreneurial age.

This new phase will require more lateral thinking and like Linda Naiman said “a whole new way of doing business to be successful”.5

Survival on this hostile planet demanded entrepreneurial thinking right from the start. Right now, it’s even more hostile to man’s survival with global warming and all. The whole ecological disaster looming is like a giant clock, ticking off the seconds to a final countdown that could see man exit existence on this planet, never to return.

Unless Mauritz.

Unless everybody, all 8 billion citizens, becomes a Mauritz with spark plug thinking, it is going to be difficult to survive.

So maybe we’ve come full circle. Survival in this furious melting pot called Earth – 2012 – and Beyond, will only demand entrepreneurial thinking.

Nothing less. Nothing else.

 © Elmarie Bouwer


Elmarie is a wordpreneur for the Entrepreneurial Business School (Pty) Ltd and a freelance creative writer, web writer and copywriter. Email her at






  1. Mauritz Bekker.Entrepreneurial Business School.
  2. Spark plug.
  3. Thanks to Pieter Bouwer for likening entrepreneurial thinking to that of a spark plug’s energy.

4. ©MSNBC Interactive. Philipp Harper. History’s 10 greatest entrepreneurs. Accessed 12.03.2012.

5.  Creativity at Work. Accessed 13 march 2012.



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