Saturday, January 31, 2009

What was old becomes new again, and better.

I especially like writer and professor Don Tapscott. Mr. Tapscott co-authored one of my all-time favorite books, "Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything".

What I did not know until I Wikipedia'd up Mr. Tapscott is that he is also an Adjunct Professor of Management at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. I love the vision coming out of that school, led by someone I've written about earlier with great admiration, Roger Martin.

To the point: Mr. Tapscott is blogging from Davos for Business Week, and one of his posts this week really caught my eye.

We focus on a presentation by the Founder of the World Economic Forum held yearly in Davos, Switzerland, Klaus Schwab.

From Don Tapscott: " Klaus Schwab’s address to the 2009 Annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos is such a powerful document, in my view it could be the starting point for new modus operandi for the planet. As such, I’ve called it The Schwab Manifesto..."

"Schwab argues that we need to rebuild the global economy, not only based on more liquidity in the system, but also the fundamental pillars of honesty, transparency and predictability. He says we need to look at our world in a holistic, systemic way, remembering the global economy, the environment, political strife, social justice and other issues are all interconnected."

The 'Schwab Manifesto' as Mr Tapscott names it, involves 5 key points, highlighted below. The full doc is linked at the end.

The first objective is to support world governments, beginning with the G20.

"What we need now is not only to look back and conduct a thorough assessment of the systems failures and the mistakes we made but, more importantly, to look forward and mobilize all people with one mission in mind: to rebuild trust not only based on more liquidity in the system but also based on the fundamental pillars of honesty, transparency and predictability."

The second objective is to take a wholistic approach to economic development.

The third objective is to deal with global problems in a proactive way. This approach has never been more needed. A proactive vision for tomorrow requires wholistic economic development - development that reaches out to help every person and every solutions-providing organization become more economically independent. In difficult times it is easier to become reactive. Solutions don't live there. Solutions and development come from proactive steps taken with the betterment of all in mind.

Objective four, quoted directly: "The fourth objective of this Annual Meeting is to better shape the ethical value base for business, highlighting a clear differentiation between industrial and service companies that provide true value to society and those that make money through paper transactions and speculation."

"The moral reformation – not only of business but of society at large – cannot result from just the revival of fundamental principles such as solidarity or modesty. What we really need is to reflect on how we want the world to be in 10, 20 and 30 years. Over half of the people on earth are under 25 years old. How should they live when they are our age? Shaping the post-crisis world means, above all, to incorporate ecological, global and inter-generational accountability and responsibility into everything we are undertaking, individually and collectively."

Objective five. Reconstruct the global economy.

For objective 5 I'll circle back and pull a quote from one of the earlier objectives… "Entrepreneurship remains the key driver of wealth generation and the market economy is a fundamental pillar of a free and democratic society, but the market forces have to be embedded into an enhanced and globally better coordinated regulatory framework."

For entrepreneurs, this return to transparency, accountability and service to a greater good is exactly what will work to your benefit. Anyone with those approaches can successfully participate in enterprise and markets. The 'stuff' of entrepreneurship can be taught. However, the values above must be engrained and honored for real economic development to happen at the personal level for the largest number of humans on the planet.

The fact that this direction is coming out of Davos is remarkable. A call for this level of commitment to enterprise values our grandparents would love is truly hopeful. And this time around, we have transformative, empowering enterprise tools available to most of humanity that didn't even exist a couple of decades ago.

As the world turns, what was old becomes new again, and better.

Business week article with Don Tapscott's blog

Wikipedia Klaus Schwab and Davos

Wikipedia Don Tapscott

Excellent interview with Don Tapscott done by Google CEO Eric Schmit . Thanks to blogger Derek Wenmoth for this link. Derek is the Director of eLearning CORE Education Ltd, a not-for-profit educational research and development organization based in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Dean Roger Martin ("Quantifying the now and intuiting what's next.") and The Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto. blog link

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The velocity of entrpreneurship. Slow down.

There was an interesting piece at earlier this month that wrestled with the psychology of entrepreneurs.

Since it quotes some of my favorites, I'll pass that favor along and quote them here: Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway among many other things. Guy Kawasaki, earliest Apple Evangelist, among many other things. John Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray & Christmas, among many other things. A proper nod to Steve Jobs. Challenging but compelling quotes and analysis from a Harvard Business School psychologist. A summary recommendation from a psychologist without enough credentials to cite which means she's seen most of the entrepreneur bell curve.

Let's start.

Asking Dean Kamen: What's the toughest question to ask yourself? Answer: When to quit. "It's not nearly as glamorous as people think to keep working on something and to keep hitting roadblocks and to keep going."

The following downer quote (to his credit, made while laughing) from Guy Kawasaki about false expectations:

"You need to be in denial or ignorant about the huge challenges you face. You have to believe that it wouldn't be hard for you to succeed."

Note to reader: If you put realistic expectations on your early returns and an appropriate timeline, success is not hard. Defining success in terms that are largely unattainable by small scale startups guarantees it will be risky and hard.

And then a challenging quote from Abraham Zaleznik, Harvard Business School psychology professor.

"Entrepreneurs tend to have a singular weakness that allows them to do things without checking their conscience. Juvenile delinquents act and then try to sort things out afterward. I think entrepreneurs have this tendency."

Note to self: Hmmmmm.

So let's turn to some solutions….

In the midst of midst of millions of job losses the article picks up a quote from employment firm icon John Challenger, of Challenger, Gray and Christmas: "Between 5 and 7 percent of clients at Challenger Gray and Christmas are choosing to start their own businesses. Workers are more open to starting a small business [than] in the dot-com era. I think we are in a more entrepreneurial period than we were in the '80s and '90s."

The article continues, "Recessions can be 'crucibles' for at-home start-ups 'Some of the best new businesses start in recessions because what they have really makes a difference if the market is interested in it. There's not a lot of easy money to go around, and they have to figure their way forward.'"

Note to reader: Here is your permission to consider your own startup. John Challenger is one of the most globally connected guys in the world of employment trends saying that our society is becoming more entrepreneurial right now than it was during the amazing startup boom in the recent past. Mr. Challenger also notes that it's perfectly legitimate to launch your startup from your home.

And then Guy Kawasaki on the fundamental question entrepreneurs need to be continually asking: "Great entrepreneurs do more than just fight hard to win their market share. They have vision. They ask the fundamental question, 'Wouldn't it be neat if…?'"

Note to reader: "Wouldn't it be neat if….?" Continually asking yourself this question about your enterprise is the source of all great innovation, no matter the size of your business. If you ask this question and the answer solves a specific problem, you have the core of your business plan.

On to the conclusions from the psychologist who counsels entrepreneurs: "Entrepreneurs live in the world of action (and) often need help with slowing down and thinking several steps ahead."

Note to reader: The idea of telling entrepreneurs to slow down sounds opposite of current thinking, but in reality it's not so much a command as advice from others who have done it. I'm not saying 'go slow' but rather advising, 'expect slowness'. It is absolutely inevitable with most micro-funded enterprises. It's not the destination but the journey that's important.

So, what's in this article that can be put to use?

- Start small.
- Start now.
- Don't expect immediate returns.
- Create returns that recompense your time.
- Expect to work harder and longer than you anticipate.
- Test as many markets at the least possible cost as you can.
- Expect to make many mistakes. Keep them inexpensive.
- There is often much more to learn from mistakes than successes. Watch mistakes carefully and treasure what you can learn from them.

As Dwight Eisenhower so famously said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." You can push numbers out into the future, but you can't plan the humans in your equations and business models (including yourself).

I would advise all new entrepreneurs entering this path to slow down. Enjoy the journey. Think as many steps ahead as you can but, as they say in drivers ed, drive within your headlights.

If you plan carefully for the immediate concerns of your startup or expansion, promise yourself hard work and a realistically slow pace, you can absolutely do this.

Original CNN article by Thom Patterson

Friday, January 16, 2009

What you will be remembered by

A pair of great new friends from Mineral Point asked me to be their guest at an economic forecasting lunch, keynoted by our Governor, Jim Doyle, and Dr. Charles L. Evans, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and a member of the Federal Open Market Committee.

Dr. Evans prefaced his remarks by saying that the theme of the day reminded him of a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert. It was opened by Steven Stills saying they were going to do a song by Neil Young. It would start pretty gloomy and then take everyone down from there.

In his remarks, Dr. Evans certainly channeled Neil Young.

These posts are about entrepreneurship, personal economic security, the contributions you can make, and enjoying the process.

These posts are about using your gifts to solve problems.

As I listened to Dr. Evans from the Fed talk about how difficult it will be to dig out of this mess, I kept thinking about all the meaningful ways that small scale, sustainable entrepreneurship can contribute to the solutions needed.

What would I say if I had to offer the most concise call to action I could muster to motivate these new entrepreneurs? How could I help define the roles we most need in the next economy?

Then I remembered a quote from Tom Peters (Second post in a row quoting Tom!) which fit perfectly:

"Take advantage of tough times to realize that in the long haul you will be remembered for your humanity, not your net worth."

That's the entrepreneurship I know and love. Creating solutions. Solving problems. Growing your contributions. Do that and the rest will follow.

These are awful times. Awful times will come again, as will good times and everything in between. Creating new enterprises with the goal of strengthening the communities you live in will strengthen your own humanity.

Go get it, friend

Tom Peters' site