Entrepreneurial DNA

I have been pondering the idea of Entrepreneurism. Over the last year and a half I have been reading, eating, and living the idea. It has led to a new major at the school where I teach. The Social Entrepreneurial major will start in August.

As I have read about Entrepreneurs, such as Richard Branson, I have come to believe that these individuals are unique. Their DNA separates them from the pack. Whether they are singular or serial Entrepreneurs; they are a different-breed!

Roger Martin and Sally Osberg help us to understand what an Entrepreneur is and does. They state, “Entrepreneurs are believed to have an exceptional ability to see and seize upon new opportunities, the commitment and drive required to pursue them, and an unflinching willingness to bear the inherent risks.” There are systems that perform at low levels, but somehow Entrepreneurs can see how that system performance can be improved and how to get it accomplished.

Joseph Schumpeter, an early 20th century Economist said this about the topic, “Successful entrepreneurship sets off a chain reaction, encouraging other entrepreneurs to iterate upon and ultimately propagate the innovation to the point of ‘creative destruction,’ a state at which the new venture and all its related ventures effectively render existing products, services, and business models obsolete.” The possibilities associated with Entrepreneurism are unlimited.

Hal Gregersen is an author and professor at the graduate school INSEAD. He studies Innovation and Leadership. Under the heading of Fostering Entrepreneurship Gregersen states, “The data would say about one-third of our creative capacity is DNA. The other two-thirds is the world we grow up in and work in.” He is arguing that if we intend to foster Entrepreneurism in our children we must foster creativity within them by not asking them what they did today in school, but ask them what questions did they ask today. I like that!

Gregersen goes on to say that if we are going to foster a creative culture then leadership must create an environment that is safe to ask the difficult questions. Leadership needs to foster an environment that allows provocative and disruptive questions, which will, as Schumpeter states, allow creative destructive to occur.

According to the WSJ this morning Israel has the innovative formula that is fostering Entrepreneurism. Nava Sofer states, “We have a cultural heritage of academic excellence. We also are a small country with not many friends around us, and we have managed to find the only corner of the Middle East with no natural resources. That leaves you with brain power and brain power alone.” If necessity is the mother of invention, then Israel has found the key. Nova also discusses how compulsory military service helps to foster an entrepreneurial environment. Through military service the young people develop problem-solving skills that help them think quickly on their feet. The combination of learning and problem-solving continues to help Israel stay ahead of the competition.

I hope that our new program will do the same thing. I hope that we can create a culture of creativity and innovation that will allow students to create Entrepreneurships that not only meet social needs, but become financially viable.

And that is my thought for the day!

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Busy, Busy, Busy!

What a busy semester! New programs, classes, ENACTUS, and Faculty Chair duties have kept me busy this year. So much so I have not been able to write as much. My lack of writing is not due to a lack of subjects, but due to time commitments. Today, however, I have a few moments to reflect on the events of this past week.

Pistorius, the Blade Runner, was allowed bail by the South African court system. He killed his girlfriend, which he said was a huge mistake. Some are calling this the OJ Simpson trial of South Africa. If the glove don’t fit you must acquit. This tragic event of the week will be watched by the world, but I wonder why something like this happens. Why does a person with so much going good happening in their life, shoots their significant other? What drives a person to do that? What makes someone so mad that they think they must kill the person they love? From this comment, you may assume I think he did it intentionally, but I am not saying that, but if he did do that intentionally what drove him to the point of premeditative murder?

Armstrong is another continuing event. Now the United States government has joined the plethora of plaintiffs suing Lance Armstrong. Here is a man who has won the Tour de France seven times, or at least had won them, but now has lost everything. His wins were stripped from him, and now many of his previous supporters are suing him for fraud. The question in my mind about Armstrong is what drove him to feel that he needed to cheat to win?

Berlusconi continues to ascend into headlines ad nauseum. Here is a man that led Italy down a road of destruction, and just like the Emperors of the past was filled with debauchery and deceit, yet the Italian people may vote him back into office. He was removed from office for many reasons, including sex with a minor, but now because Italians are afraid of austerity he just may end up back in power. It reminds me of one of our own, D.C. mayor Marion Berry.  He was a civil rights activist who was elected mayor of D.C. He was eventually arrested for smoking crack cocaine. He served six months in jail and then was reelected to a commissioner position, and eventually became mayor again.

All three of these men are flawed individuals. They are not what Jim Collins calls a level five leader, or someone who builds greatness through a paradoxical mix of humility and professional will. One could never say the Pistorius, Armstrong, and Berlusconi are humble individuals using professional will to build greatness. But how did they become the people they are today. As little children did they cheat and live in excess? Did they kill lizards and plan for the days they would be in positions of influence where they could do just that? I don’t think so!

I think these three men grew up in fairly normal situations, but as they grew up and moved into their positions of leadership and influence made bad decisions and no one held them accountable. No one said Lance, “doping is wrong.” Or to Pistorius, “you have an anger problem I am not leaving until you seek help.” Or to Berlusconi, “you are one sick individual you need to get your life in order.” These men did not have the right people around them to keep them on the narrow path. They became their own standard of right and wrong, instead of adhering to a higher standard.

Humanity is fallen. We are all imperfect people, and as a result of that we need external help to keep ourselves on the narrow path. In 1973 I became a Christian. I recognized that the journey I was on was not healthy. I gave my life to Christ and began my walk with Him. I cannot say I have been perfect, there have been many failures, but I do know this He is in my life helping me to stay on that narrow path that is not easily found. As Jesus said, broad is the path that leads to destruction, but narrow is the gate that leads to salvation. I am happy where my life has gone. I am very thankful that I am a Jesus follower, and I look forward to the future, whatever if may bring.

And that is my thought for the day!

Serenity: Abide In The Vine

After a night of sleeplessness, I get up and open the paper; immediately I am confronted with the issues of the day. China spying on US firms; The Democratic/Republican sequester, depending on who is naming it; Boeing to offer a fix to the FAA; Marijana tourism; murder and mayhem of all kinds. What a crazy world we live in.

These are not the things that keep me awake at night. A student having a problem; some crazy decision by management where I work; classes that I have been asked to teach that I dislike; Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of my job; these are the things that make me toss and turn. Last night was one of those nights.

There is nothing wrong with disagreement, it happens all the time. In fact, if we all agreed all the time, the quality of decision-making diminishes. A gentleman named Irving Janus did research on this phenomenon, and determined that even the smartest individuals can make bad decisions when they think they know it all. As I thought about this in the wee hours of the morning, the serenity prayer came to mind. I love it when God’s still small voice emerges within the chaos.

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And the wisdom to know the difference.

 

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make things right

If I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.

Amen

Reinhold Niebuhr

So there you have it. My mantra for the day, and the rest of my life. I like to fix problems within organizations. However, often I don’t have the tools to fix the problem, nor do the problems want to be fixed. Therefore I need the wisdom to be able to determine what differences I can and cannot make. I cannot change a person, or his/her personality, but I can change how I respond to them.

Displaying courage involves an ability to be strong in the face of pain and grief. As I write this I am reflecting on the Catholic understanding of seven virtues: four are cardinal and three are considered theological. Theological virtues are faith, hope and love. For us to properly display these virtues we must rely on the Spirit of God to live these in us and through us. The cardinal virtues are courage, prudence, justice and restraint.

Lord my prayer for today is that these virtues would be evident within me, May I be courageous, prudent, just, and wise (restraining myself from hurting others). And Holy Spirit, please express your love, through me, that I may be a man of faith and hope as I live each day. In Christ’s name I pray.

You know what, now that I think about it, this is my prayer for all of us. May all of us love, believe, and care for each other.

And that is my thought for the day!

The United States of Italy

I love reading the Economist. It motivates me to think in ways that I may not have, if I wouldn’t have read the articles. This week’s offering is no different. Two articles stood out to me. “The Missing $20 Trillion,” and “Who Can Save Italy,” both had me thinking about the problems we are facing as a nation.

The missing $20 Trillion discusses how large firms, and others, are dodging taxes. Amazon and Starbucks, both well respected companies in the United States, but are facing a backlash of negative press in Europe by their ability to use “accounting tricks to book profits in tax havens while reducing their bills in the countries where they do business.”

The article then discusses how corporations attempt to take advantage of tax havens all over the world. The Cayman Islands is the home of 18,000 companies. I’ve been to the island; it is not that big. I have no idea where those 18,000 companies are located. The fact is they are just calling the Cayman’s home because of its tax shelters. As much as we want to vilify the Cayman’s, Delaware is home to 945,000 companies due to its very friendly tax structure. Lets not forget Miami, London, Luxembourg, Ireland, and the Netherlands known for their low taxes. The amount of money being held overseas due to our extremely high tax rates is now well over $20 trillion. As the Economist notes, “Civilization works only if those who enjoy its benefits are also prepared to pay their fair share of the costs.” Our tax structure is a problem, but even more dangerous is our move to become more like Italy.

Mario Monti’s reforms in Italy have worked. However, there is so much more to do. Italy has a huge public debt, its GDP per person has fallen, and its economic growth is one of tot happy, the worst in the world. “In the global league table of growth in GDP per head, it comes 169th out of 179 countries over the period since 2000, beating only a handful of basket-cases such as Haiti, Eritrea, and Zimbabwe.”

The people of Italy are not happy with the situation, and may reelect Berlusconi, the previous Prime Minister. This man is a pervert, and the wrong man to lead Italy to the path of economic growth. Monti, who took over for Berlusconi, has been working to lead Italy back to economic health, trying to repair what eight years fo Berlusconi..

The fact is, Italy’s cronyism is unsurpassed. It can be observed in its “protected economic interests, from notaries to pharmacists, and from taxis to energy suppliers.” However, my worry is we are becoming like Italy with far “too many layers of government: provincial, regional and local administration that duplicate rather than replace the activities of central government.”

The fact is, and even Phil Mickelson recognizes, our taxes are too high leading those who can to find those tax havens. And if we continue to grow government my fear is we will end up like Italy having a sex-crazed leader who wants to party all the time. Oh wait a minute, we’ve had a few of those already. We are doomed.

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons From The Bolshoi

I had a very interesting conversation yesterday with another professor. He had just read the book by Jim Collins, Good to Great. Collins calls is a prequel to his book, Built to Last. I pulled it out and started reading it again last night. I am not a fast reader so it will take me more than one night to read, but I had forgotten how good of a book it is. It proposes a descriptive model of how organizations progress from being good to becoming great. Collins argues it all starts with level five leadership, a leadership style based on the foundation of humility and professional will.

I think we can contrast the previous statement to learn lessons from the Bolshoi brouhaha. In January the Bolshoi ballet’s artistic director arrived home in the evening, only to be greeted by a shadowy figure who threw acid on his face. His eyes, as well as his face, were severely burned. I first heard about this on NPR, when the station aired an interview with the gentleman. Since then I have learned that the Bolshoi is filled with artistic squabbles that result from how the artists are compensated for their work. “Dancers are paid primarily according to the amount of time they spend on the stage, so an understudy may not be completely heartbroken if the lead ballerina breaks an ankle.”

Schumpeter, an editorial that runs weekly in the Economist, discussed this in this week’s magazine. The Bolshoi is known for its confrontations. Needles inserted into costumes, broken glass in the tips of ballerina shoes, dead cats tossed on stage in lieu of flowers, and alarm clocks set off during quiet moments on stage. Schumpeter says, “Ballet is not for sissies.”

I wish I could say that the Bolshoi is different than other organizations, but it isn’t. The level of bad form, as Captain Hook tells Peter Pan, is common throughout organizations. Gossip runs rampant, and is enjoyed, in all organizations. And bad decisions frequently lead to individual and organizational failure. This is why I think Collin’s ideas are germane. How we reward, the economic environment, and our beliefs concerning the need stars within organizations feed the chaos. What gets rewarded gets done; if short-term profits are emphasized then that is what will be accomplished. When we are in an economic downturn, if we overreact we will create what Towers Watson calls “trauma organizations.” These trauma organizations will take drastic steps to survive. And when we focus our hiring efforts on getting the best and the brightest, instead of what Collins calls the right ones, we end up with the prima donnas that will put glass in their competitor’s shoes.

Collins lays out the path to greatness within his flywheel model. Becoming great starts with humble and strong leadership; I would add service. Humility, Service, and Professional Will, are the drivers for modern leadership. Becoming great includes having the right people on the bus. Collins argues that people are not our greatest assets, the right people are. Once you know where you are going and have the right people on the bus, you must never give up. However, you must confront brutal facts. Reality and will mix here.

The fourth element of those companies that are great is what Collins calls the Hedgehog Concept. Instead of continuing activities for the sake of continuing them, you must determine what you are deeply passionate about, what drives your economic engine, and what you can be the best at in the world. The graphic he uses is a Venn Diagram. Where the three circles intersect is where you want to focus your efforts. There is also a culture of discipline and technology accelerators that help an organization become great.

The Bolshoi is an extreme example of what many of our organizations are; extremely creative, filled with opportunity, but missing the mark because it is focused on tradition. The world has changed and continues to change, and if our organizations are going to be great, then we need to recognize what from our past has worked, and what we need to do to go forward. I, for one, don’t want to arrive home and find someone waiting for me to do something harmful. I want inovative organizations that are looking to the future creatively with humility, service, and professional will.

And that is my thought for the day!

Meritocracy And Altruism

I just got done watching the State of the Union and Marco Rubio’s response. In both cases it reminded me that words are not as important as action. Many good ideas from both sides, but now we need to figure out how to get it done. How do we encourage innovation and ability, in other words meritocracy, while providing a system fair enough that people can climb the ladder to middle class? I agree with Rubio when he emphasized that the ability to improve one’s lot in life is what has made this country great. However, the economic system is unfair, with people are locked in execrable situations.

In 1958 Michael Young wrote a book entitled “The Rise of Meritocracy.” He painted a picture of how a hierarchy of talent had replaced a class-based elite. Aristocracy had forfeited its privilege due to debauchery. The talented have become the elite in our modern society, while today’s Horatio Algiers has become more limited than ever before. “Clever children were syphoned into special schools and showered with resources. The demoralized talentless masses eventually revolted.” The Economist points out the world is starting to look like this, and the new talented leaders are the business-school educated elite that are becoming entrenched.

This elite has developed a skill for taking advantage of privilege. The Economist calls this a virtuous meritocracy, where the educated elite becomes entrenched while the untalented masses refuse to marry and have children out of wedlock, creating a generation of young that have no hope.  I believe in rewarding talent and hard work, but I also believe in providing opportunity for all.

The gap between those that can afford education and those that cannot is getting wider. The time is to stop talking about this and do something about it. Both President Obama and Senator Marco Rubio recognize that economic growth is the key to being able to afford what we need to do to maintain a system of social mobility.

The only problem with just focusing on economic growth and altruism is how misses the fact that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with as a system. The system encompasses spiritual, economic, political, and social dimensions. Each of these need to be attacked together by the church, business, and government. All three need to work together to provide opportunity without undermining innovation and incentive.

And that is my thought for the day!

Lessons From Sweden

The school where I teach is a Christ-centered, liberal arts institution. I think it is the best place to teach business. When you talk about producing well-rounded business practitioners who have character, and in some cases are characters, and recognize the higher purpose of business, there is no better place.

Every Tuesday and Thursday we have Chapel. It is a place of coming together to worship, practice community, and debate the larger issues. Yesterday our Chapel event opened the door for further communication concerning Economics, Business and Social Justice: Doing Well and Doing Good. We had a panel of Business, Human Development, and Education majors discussing whether the practice of business is bad for society. The students were mature and articulate, and during the last five minutes the student body began asking the tough questions. The door is now open for a dialog.

We also had a Business Advisory Board member who monitored the event. He did an excellent job of telling us how PepsiCo is doing well and doing good. The event was a success. However, I hope we continue to have dialog around the topic of Capitalism and Free Enterprise. There are many lessons to be learned.  Lessons that if America looked at Sweden, we just might be astonished at the Free Market shift that has occurred in this traditionally Social Democratic country.

Sweden has been a proponent of what is called the middle or third way; usually viewed as a path somewhere between Socialism and Capitalism. Two decades ago, Sweden’s Social Democratic government pushed the country to the left side of the spectrum, which almost bankrupted the country. Now with its new think tanks the country has shifted once again becoming more Capitalistic, which has improved its Financial viability.

According to the Economist “Sweden has reduced its public spending as a proportion of GDP from 67% in 1993 to 49% today.” Since 1993 it has reduced its top marginal tax rate by 27%, lowering it to 57%. “This year it is cutting its corporate tax-rate from 26.3% to 22%. Not only has it cut public spending it has cut its public debt, which was 70% of GDP in 1993 and is now 37%. They have done this in conjunction with attaining their goal of producing a budget surplus. In 2010 Sweden’s budget surplus was .3%; that down from an 11% budget deficit. Sounds pretty conservative to me.

John Kotter in his Classic book “Leading Change,” argues that most change events fail because the organization doesn’t really believe they need to change. The question becomes, why did Sweden begin to shift from a Socialist big government model to one of smaller government? “The two decades from 1970 were a period of decline: the country was demoted from being the world’s fourth richest in 1970 to the 14th richest in 1993, when the average Swede was poorer than the average Britain or Italian.” The country of Volvo and Ericsson slipped, and they did not like that, so they did something about it. “The two decades from 1990 were a period of recovery: GDP growth between 1993 and 2010 averaged 2.7% a year and productivity 2.1% a year.” This was much higher than other European countries.

I don’t want you to think that Sweden has become the United States of Swedeamerica. It still prides itself on is social safety-nets. 30% of their workforce are still employed in the public sector, and they “continue to believe in combining open economies with public investment in human capital.” I think the key is the fact that they are relying on “choice and competition” first, rather than “paternalism and planning.”

The Swedes just may be on to something. It appears they are following the Canadian path to financial health. The Swedes are probably looking are our pathetic political leadership and our dire financial situation, and just like the Canadians are saying there but by the grace of God go we.

There are many things we can learn from the Swedes, especially the fact that there is a viable third way.

And that is my thought for the day!