I THE CHALLENGE
My father just died unexpectedly and left me his fast-paced, high-tech, entrepreneurial company to run to ensure my mother and sister are supported. I have to decide quickly whether I’ll run it, hire or promote someone else to run it, or sell it.
I want to honor his legacy but fear I may be exactly the wrong person to do it. I have no entrepreneurial instincts, no big ideas, and no craving to penetrate unknown territory. I’ve innovated before but I’m not really an inventor, a creative, or a marketing guru like my dad was.
However, when I read your “Lead from your Creativity Domain” article, it occurred to me that, like Nicholas, I might have a category of creativity that could make it possible for me to be more entrepreneurial.
I’m only 36. I’m one of many VPs of Finance at a large bank with all the latest technology. I’m good with numbers and computers. It’s a solid career but not really one which excites me.
I’m risk-adverse and always err on the side of caution. Fortunately, I’ve rarely had to make a major decision on my own. There have always been people above, below, and beside me at the bank to keep me safe. Also, my dad was an insightful and trusted advisor always there for me. However, with him gone and very little depth in his company, decision-making on my own will be a challenge for me.
Would you be able to help me with this career-changing decision, Lauren?
Regards, Andrew – Aspiring Entrepreneur?
II GOAL REDEFINED
I knew your father, Andrew. He was such a talented man. A good man. An uplifting man. I’m so sorry that you, Elizabeth, and Anne must move on without him. Yours is an onerous decision for your future and that of your family. However, I’ve thought of an effective way I might help.
Increase the information for your decision – I think your decision would be easier to make if you had more information: (a) about the work you’d do as CEO and (b) about how you could become a successful entrepreneur.
To provide this information I propose I step out of the confines of helping you to make your decision. Instead, I propose we assume you’ve already decided to take over the company and my assignment is to upgrade your performance.
I’d start by focusing on the entrepreneurial territories in which you’re the weakest: the product development and direction-setting characteristic of natural-born entrepreneurs. These are based on “reality-partnering expertise.” You have the finance and administration expertise and experience already and your corporate bank clients have exposed you to running companies. Before I begin instruction, Andrew, I need to clarify some definitions.
III DEFINITIONS CLARIFIED
All humans are entrepreneurs, not because they should start companies, but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA, and creation is the essence of entrepreneurship.
~Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn
1 Creativity defines entrepreneurship – Many assume anyone who starts a business is an entrepreneur. For me, innovation, creativity, “frontiering,” and opportunistic activity differentiate entrepreneurs from “me-too proprietors.” In the words of renowned management guru, Peter Drucker, “Innovation is the specific function of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business, a public service institution, or a new venture started by a lone individual in the family kitchen. It is the means by which the entrepreneur either creates new wealth-producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.”
For me, innovation is the improvement to existing information systems while creativity re-combines existing information systems to generate an unprecedented information system. I’d prefer you strive to become a creator rather than an innovator in your high-speed, high-tech firm, Andrew. That way, everything about augmenting inborn and logic-sourced creativity in Lead from your Creativity Domain (Study 10) will empower you to become the entrepreneurial success to which you aspire.
Study 10 is about a formula for maximization which entails applying one’s strongest, most rewarding talents to the most meaningful work for the most appreciative or valuing audience. This formula is achieved by triggering peak-performance, peak-growth, peak-creativity, peak-rewards, top-talent-flow states within one’s creativity domain where one is the most creative. Top-talent flow is my invented subset of Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Optimal Experience (1991). It’s our mechanism for instant biological maximization.
2 Environmental opportunism defines entrepreneurship – If we’re going to address your shortcomings with respect to entrepreneurial product development and direction-setting, Andrew, we’ll need to increase your reality-partnering expertise.
Robert E. Nelson is a co-author of the authoritative book entitled The Practice of Entrepreneurship. Coincidental to our current reality-partnering focus, his definition of an entrepreneur links them to environmental opportunism.
Nelson describes an entrepreneur as a person who “is able to look at the environment, identify opportunities to improve the environment, marshal resources, and implement action to maximize those opportunities. … Indeed, entrepreneurs create something new, something different, they change or transmute value.”
3 Creativity plus reality-partnering define entrepreneurship – As it turns out, both creativity and reality-partnering are automatically built into top-talent-flow events within one’s creativity domain. Adhere to this formula, Andrew, and you’ll have the ability to operate with the genius, instincts, responsiveness, and opportunistic perception of an exceptional entrepreneur.
I call it “automatic entrepreneuring.” Lead from your Creativity Domain, which you’ve already read, describes in detail everything you need to do for the creativity and reality-partnering you’re missing. Problem solved!
However, what about a backup plan? What do you do if you can’t get into top-talent flow? If you’re a novice; if you’re too stressed; if your flow state was interrupted; if the neurochemical resources sustaining a flow state have been depleted? My instruction today will therefore focus on increasing your reality-partnering between flows. “Manual entrepreneuring” if you will.
Fortunately, “automatic entrepreneuring” will teach you everything about reality-partnering. Watch it in action in top-talent flow to understand what reality is doing and why. Then do the same during “manual entrepreneuring.” However, since we must make you operational quickly, Andrew, I want to short-circuit your learning curve.
I’ll introduce you to a higher power – a level of dynamic order hidden within the seeming chaos of reality. Then I’ll give you strategies and tips for conscripting this higher power for entrepreneurial genius.
4 Entrepreneurship – a discipline that can be learned: Drucker describes entrepreneurship as a discipline. “Most of what you hear about entrepreneurship is all wrong,” wrote Drucker in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “It’s not magic; it’s not mysterious; and it has nothing to do with genes. It’s a discipline and, like any discipline, it can be learned.”
Drucker’s more traditional entrepreneurial discipline fits within the larger biological framework of the discipline I’ll be providing you, Andrew. Many excellent business schools can educate you on state-of-the-art approaches to entrepreneurship. Lead from your Creativity Domain provides the more elusive spark that makes the traditional discipline work – the creative engine.
You’re smart enough and adaptive enough, Andrew, to learn both the traditional and biology-based disciplines to become the great entrepreneur your father was. So, let’s get started with some strategies for increasing your entrepreneurial prowess. You’re going to be surprised at how easy it is for you to follow in your father’s footsteps.
IV EXECUTION CREATIVITY
ANDREW: One of my big concerns, Lauren, is that I’ve never had a big idea like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, or Facebook. It seems to me that truly successful entrepreneurs had one or more breakthrough ideas that generated their success. I’ve no history of that. My dad developed four breakthrough ideas in the last year that now account for 50% of the projected profits in the next five years. I’m worried that I won’t be able to develop products to sustain the company in the face of the rapid evolution of this industry.
LAUREN: Entrepreneurial success – One big idea versus thousands of execution ideas? Many believe a breakthrough idea is key to entrepreneurial success, Andrew, or that a big idea will ensure sustained success. Rather, it’s the thousands of ideas required at every decision-point of the implementation that spawn the superstars. Smart, fast, creative, idea-implementation is the stuff of iconic entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg.
- Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook were not started with an original idea. Execution creativity drove their sustained success. No need to take my word for it, Andrew. Here are quotes from Steve Jobs and other experts addressing the “big-idea myth:”
“. . . one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people ‘here’s this great idea’ then of course they can go off and make it happen.
“And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it.
“And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.
“Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently. And it’s that process that is the magic.”
- “The thing that keeps a business ahead of the competition is excellence in execution.” ~ Tom Peters, Expert on Business Management Practices
- “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” ~ Multimillionaire entrepreneur Scott Belsky, Co-Founder, Behance
- “Success doesn’t necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution.” ~ Billionaire Entrepreneur Naveen Jain
- “Ideas are a commodity. Execution of them is not.” ~ Michael Dell, Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies
Nowhere does the myth of one big idea rather than thousands of execution ideas play out more unequivocally than in the Winklevoss twins versus Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. You may recall the movie, “The Social Network.” The twins thought their one big copycat idea – which was, by the way, not used for Facebook – entitled them to revenues earned from the thousands of implementation ideas which generated Facebook’s success.
Our focus for re-casting you as an entrepreneur, Andrew, must be about making you an execution creative. You’ll need instruction for both creativity and reality-partnering. Lead from your Creativity Domain provides the instructions you’ll need to augment both your “inborn creativity” and “logic-sourced creativity.”
I’ll provide instruction on reality-partnering today. Both creativity and reality-partnering are built into “automatic entrepreneuring,” so that’s covered. Therefore, we only need to focus on reality-partnering during “manual entrepreneuring” between flow events. You can learn everything about reality-partnering outside of flow by watching it during flow. This is how I learned. Let me share some insights from my experience.