Time to “fix” Social Entrepreneurship?

Peter Thiel thinks so: … I prefer to focus on the mission of a company. And the mission has a story that is about more than making money, some transcendent purpose. But I distinguish mission from convention; if it involves an idea that’s totally different than what I’ve seen before, that’s what feels very powerful. The creative part of the process is to think really hard: What are the great new things that we can develop today in 2014?

This quote gets to the heart of Theil’s argument on FastCoLabs.

He’s looking at it from an investor point of view, not a “this is a worthwhile endeavor” pov. Presumably every “social entrepreneurship” venture has an important mission, a “transcendent purpose” -isn’t that kind of the point? From a business/investor perspective, the issue of how an enterprise distinguishes itself from the crowd is vital. The compelling mission and story help your project stand out and get the attention of others who will want to be part of what you do, either as investors, partners, team members, community advocates, or consumers.

The issue seems to be one of innovation – how do you pursue your wild imagination and take the big risk, follow the BIG IDEA and get out in front of the crowd. Honestly, creating an environment where people can be more free to take risks will be good for everyone, not just investors. The Big Problems need Big Solutions. On that score, I’m glad to be part of The Grove Dallas where we are creating just this kind of space.

 

 

Innovation: Open Source Technology in Sailing

This TED talk illustrates several important concepts around innovation

A Novel Idea for Cleaning Up Oil Spills

  1. Follow an inverted paradigm of production – Environment -> People -> Technology -> Profit
  2. Collaborate and share questions and solutions as broadly as possible
  3. The faster you fail, the faster you learn and approach a better solution
  4. Explore as many alternative uses as possible
  5. Join forces with other dreamers and doers

What innovation principles would you add?

How might you apply these principles to your own dream?

 

Collaboration for Solopreneurs

How do you generate creativity when you work alone?
Create opportunities for collaboration and brainstorming.

You have the vision, the passion, and the drive to pursue your dream, build the business and life you imagine and desire. You don’t have to work alone. Solopreneurs commonly suffer side effects of working alone: short-sightedness, isolation, burnout, worry.

The fact that you are responsible for every aspect of your business does not mean you have to do everything, or that you have to do it alone. Often colleagues in the same industry and peers in other disciplines are excited to join in a brainstorming session where you lay out a challenge you are facing and invite others to offer input and ask probing questions. This can produce the kinds of great creative synergy that R&D relies on. It is the reason that organizations like Google nurture and even force interaction among their employees and customers – Interaction breeds innovation. Isolation stifles. Their website describes their approach this way:

We strive to maintain the open culture often associated with startups, in which everyone is a hands-on contributor and feels comfortable sharing ideas and opinions. In our weekly all-hands (“TGIF”) meetings—not to mention over email or in the cafe—Googlers ask questions directly to Larry, Sergey and other execs about any number of company issues. Our offices and cafes are designed to encourage interactions between Googlers within and across teams, and to spark conversation about work as well as play.

Even if you are a sole proprietor and have no employees – and especially if you work in a space like a home office that has no other human interaction – collaborative partnerships are an easy and powerful way to bring vitality to your work and life. Seek out people whose company you enjoy and who can help you to think bigger thoughts. Invite them to coffee and propose a challenge.This is not chitchat, so you need to establish an agenda and stop and start times. Also consider what kind of space is most conducive to your task. It may not be the local coffee shop. Then again, perhaps Starbucks, Panera or Corner Bakery. A great alternative is a space like Union in Dallas near SMU, that also has conference rooms available for exactly this purpose.

Perhaps you actually work on a group project that benefits both of you. OR, you may just take turns bringing the topic. Either way, you are likely to experience increased productivity and a greater sense of enjoyment in your work, even if you are an introvert like me.

How have you created collaborations for your work? What kinds of spaces have been most conducive? Tell us a story about what has worked for you.