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    Paying Lip Service to Developing Entrepreneurs

    ideajamThere is a very frightening trend happening in the USA. We are not growing entrepreneurs.

    See my “Seven Ways to Grow Entrepreneurs” below!

    What is it we believe in our capitalist country? Isn’t it something like this:

    Anybody who works very hard, has a bit of talent and a good idea, can start something, grow it, and do well. 

    Isn’t that the essence of the entrepreneurial American dream? Yes, there is more to it than that. Yes, you can fail. Yes, it’s a market driven meritocracy — or it should be.

    I’ve always taken this entrepreneurial spirit for granted – it’s who we are! I’ve always assumed that as the years go by, more and more Americans (and this extends to the rest of the free world) would take the entrepreneurial plunge. That in turn would refresh our economies, create wealth, jobs, and stable communities. Stable countries. No, not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but if you don’t have a goodly number of them, you’re not going to do well as a country.

    The truth is the statistics about this lack-of-entrepreneurial-spirit situation are pretty bad — with a few bright spots. Many economists are saying the reason our recovery has been tepid is simply there’s not enough new business activity.

    Younger people are not starting businesses like they used to. In the age bracket of 20 to 34 the percentage of people starting new ventures has dropped from 34.3% in 1997 to 24.7 in 2015. That is not good. The percentage of new entrepreneurs who are women has also dropped significantly since 1997.  My facts are from an excellent report from the Kauffman Foundation (Kauffman does more than report, they have a variety of programs to grow entrepreneurs). Read the report. You’ll see that there is some good news as of last year, but the overall trend has been downward for the last 20 years. Our economy is suffering as a result, and, the middle class continues to shrink. There is so much more to be said, but enough with the talking. It’s bad, and it might get worse.

    Why?

    I think we’re paying lip service to developing new entrepreneurs. We’re not doing enough. We hear lots of talk from government officials about developing entrepreneurs. We also hear it from business leaders. I’m sure they do wish to develop entrepreneurs, but it’s not happening. There is simply not enough action. Education is a huge part of the why, and in general, it’s my view that our educational system is doing a poor job of setting the table. They are not creating individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets, in fact, they are turning people away from that life choice. We are not growing entrepreneurs.

    Educational practice from elementary school onward is aimed at creating security oriented people who conform and do as they’re told. This is not the stated intention of course, but who can argue that it’s the result? Children are trained to get the right answer on the test, the One Right Answer. The insane testing we’re doing now has only reinforced this tendency.

    Yes, we need to know facts and logic, and, it’s also a fact that for most complex problems there are many solutions — and this is almost never taught or trained. Children are, in general, not taught to make things, nor are they encouraged to invent. Shop class is a thing of the past. There is very little respect for high level crafts and workmanship and every student is made to think the only option for them is college and a white collar salary job. Senator Marco Rubio made a remark recently about needing more welders and less philosophers, and he has a point. I’ve got nothing against philosophers (my brother is one) but students should be learning how to create, develop, invent, build, and sell — in addition to philosophy and the arts.

    Creativity and innovation are not taught until the college level, and even at that level, it’s not well done, nor is it pervasive. In fact, if you listen to Sir Ken Robinson we are actively training creativity out of children. And it’s also true we are not graduating enough students who are simply well educated. We’re slipping in spite of all our crazy testing efforts. Students are not even getting to the starting line with decent preparation. At least not in the USA.

    Business schools, where the most likely entrepreneurs go, are rewarded with high rankings for turning out graduates who get great Salary Jobs. Isn’t this counter-productive? Engineering schools aren’t much better, and that’s shameful. Our best makers are not getting entrepreneurial training.

    A notable exception in higher education is the KEEN Network, part of the Kern Family Foundation. They have an admirable initiative to inspire entrepreneurialism in engineering and technology students. We need more, many more, programs of this kind.

    If we really want entrepreneurs in our society, we need to do these things:

    1. Stop talking about it, and take action by nurturing and funding entrepreneurial education.
    2. Teach creative thinking and entrepreneurialism at every level of education. Make it an option for every student to consider. Provide the tools and the courseware for those who are interested. Let’s make it a “track” starting in high school that can be actively chosen by anyone with that desire.
    3. Provide training and pathways for those in salary jobs to make a transition to starting their own business. Let’s find ways to reward employers who work with their talent to spin off companies.
    4. Support start-ups in as ways as we possibly can. Tax breaks, services, cheap offices and telecom, advice — and transitional safety nets for those who fail. Nobody talks about this, but if we made it less catastrophic to fail, we’d get more takers.
    5. Set up venture funds and seed funds that are accessible to everyone, not just an in-crowd dominated by those with access (the already affluent, prestigious school graduates, etc.) Not everything can be funded through social media.
    6. Let’s challenge government officials who spout rhetoric about personal responsibility but don’t support small business. How about tax breaks for start-up founders? And taxation and regulation relief are not the only ways to support small business!
    7. Reward schools that graduate entrepreneurs. And if not reward — at least recognize.

    End of rant.

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    Domain Knowledge Matters Donald Trump

    Call me king of the obvious but I’d like to remind folks about something related to leadership, innovation, and the upcoming election. Domain Knowledge Matters I’m not taking political sides here but I’m going to make a point about Donald Trump’s candidacy. Let’s face it he has captured the attention of a large group of people. This is factual — the polls have him leading the GOP field. My opinion on why he’s doing so well is this: Trump says things that are bold, straightforward, non-PC and they echo the sentiments of many Americans. People love this approach because it’s just not what they’re used to hearing from a politician. I’ll put aside the notions and accusations that he’s racist,




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    The Flaming Lips and Economic Development

    Consider Attending the Creativity World Forum 2015 As many of you know I’ve participated in the annual State of Creativity Forum in Oklahoma for several years. I’ve written here previously about how effective their model is in getting broad-based involvement, participation, and attendance. This is arguably the most successful creativity conference in the world right now. Those interested in the creativity and innovation field should attend Creativity World Forum 2015 if at all possible. It’s affordable, the content is superb, and it’s a great networking opportunity. It’s in just a few weeks, so register, and make plans now to arrive in Oklahoma City for the March 31st one day event. The illustrious Sir Ken Robinson is  returning as a keynoter (he




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    Rural Broadband Necessary for Rural Innovation

    Tuesday– September 23, 2014 It’s nice to see that people are recognizing that innovation isn’t always in Silicon Valley. Writing you today from the countryside in Three Oaks, Michigan, aka “Michiana” — where my poky web access is satellite based. Steve Case’s article earlier this week in the Washington Post  — Why innovation and start-ups are thriving in ‘flyover’ country —  is spot on. Case, you may recall, was co-founder of AOL. He correctly identifies the reasons why Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, and other smaller cities are becoming vibrant centers of start-ups. He’s asking for investments of time and money to be made in order to further the trend. I agree, and… He didn’t go far enough with his article — he missed one




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    Ten Ideas for Using Innovation Film Clips

    I’ve written an article on Innovation in movies — Inspiring Innovation Films: a Top Ten List.  It’s been published on the Innovation Excellence portal — I’d be most grateful if you’d read it and comment over there. Today’s post is a value add to that article with some ideas on how to use creativity and innovation clips in projects and meetings. If you’re an innovation educator, manager, or team leader you may want to consider using clips as training and/or stimulus tools. I’m a big one for keeping things entertaining no matter what you’re doing. Movie clips are a great way to do that. Here are Ten Ideas on how to integrate film clips into an innovation project: Send out a




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    Ted Nugent Lacks Creativity

    The Golden Triangle of Inanity I’ve resisted the urge to write an enraged post about the inflammatory comments made in recent weeks by Ted Nuget, Sarah Palin, and Duck Dynasty guy, Phil Robertson. I call them The Golden Triangle of Inanity (GTA). Many writers and observers have responded to their words in kind, so, I guess that base is covered. I had the notion to take Ted Nugent’s recent statement (called Obama a “subhuman mongrel”) on word for word, and then I thought, it’s not worth the energy. Why spread around even more negativity? Suffice to say I think the recent statements of the GTA are crass, ignorant, and grossly inappropriate. If you believe that these celebrities are speaking out




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    Reading Widely Means More Dots to Connect

    People ask me what I read. I think this question is inspired by my citing some arcane fact or that I make a weird connection now and then. I am a voracious reader, but I think what I actually read might surprise. Most of it is NOT directly about creativity and innovation (that’s a way to guarantee you’re boring!) Reading widely provides more dots to connect. Broadly, I’m thinking I’m improving my database by reading a lot of varied and weird content. There is some science to this; one can make more conceptual blends if one has more to blend. And, concept blending, new connections, are where innovation comes from. So, this is a snapshot of what I’m reading, for




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    Need Ideas for Creative Alternatives to Government Paralysis

    I’m sick of having a dysfunctional government. I know it’s a complex power struggle. I know there are many points of view as to why this dysfunction exists. I think this crazy partial government shutdown is probably going to happen, and to me this signals a new low. I’m not interested, right now, in a right or left opinion of whose fault it is, or why this is necessary. I think both sides share the blame in this, and, it will require both sides to return to a productive government. I want ideas. I want to focus on ideas that can motivate those in government right now. Before new elections. For years now, it would seem the only thing the




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    America, where everybody has a chance to win

    The new Miss America is a real stunner. I saw the clips at a pub — they had the sound turned down.  I thought, so that’s who won the contest this year — can we please get to the baseball scores? It would appear others had a different reaction. Miss New York, now Miss America, is a Syracuse native and University of Michigan graduate, her name is Nina Davuluri. She’s the first woman of Indian descent to win the contest. Born in America, an American citizen, and by all accounts an exemplary young person. Congratulations Nina. You live in America, where everybody has a chance to win. You just proved it. I’m an innovation commentator and from that lens it’s




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    Yes, I Tweet a Bit (Innovators Use Twitter)

    I was just named as one of the Top 50 Innovation tweeters by Innovation Excellence. A tweeter is one who uses Twitter. It’s a fairly informal sort of top 50 list — I don’t think there is a great deal of analysis around content or reach, but still, it’s nice to be recognized. I crossed the 10,000 follower line about a month ago, and weirdly, it felt like a real accomplishment. Then I saw that my friend and colleague Dr. Cindi Burnet (@Cyndiburnett) is over 50,000 followers and I didn’t feel quite so glamorous. And, you get out of Twitter what you put into it. I’m happy with my results at my current time-investment level. 10,000 feels like a “very




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