Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

« Addendum to Forks in the Road | Main | Investing in greentech innovation: patience, piles of cash, tons, and years »

December 05, 2010


Paul Hudnut

Hi Andy-
How do I spend my vacation... catching up on your blog posts. Hmm. Anyway, thought I'd comment on this one.
Two points:
1) as we have discussed, innovation is a process of "creative destruction" (Schumpeter). To your point, people get all excited about the "creative" side, and tend to be against the "destructive" side. For instance, I am pretty excited about all the innovation going on in India and China, but I often get taken to task for being unpatriotic! But I maintain it is very cool that innovation is now occurring in a much larger part of the world's population... the odds are that we have a better chance of solving what sucks with more smart people working on it. Just look how innovation networks are globalizing and moving across cultures and disciplines so much easier than a decade ago.

2) Let's be careful with saying creativity is "having an idea" and entrepreneurship is "getting it done." Sure, one form of creativity is having lots of ideas, but isn't creativity also what Bach and Michelangelo did? Was having the tune in their head, or design in their mind's eye enough to be creative? Or did they have to write the Goldberg Variations or design the Sistine Chapel? [I understand that others can play Bach, and assistants painted for Michelangelo, but I think you get my point]. If we listed creative people we respect ("creators") we would list people that "got it done" as well. Perhaps they only did the early prototypes, or sold out too early, and did not accumulate the financial wealth we accord those called "successful entrepreneurs." But I don't think creators are only "idea" people. Those that only come up with ideas are are the sad people we meet (like your Simon) who tell us of the great idea that went nowhere (usually due to someone else's fault). Or else they become professors ;-) To me, entrepreneur is a subcategory of "creators"- linked historically to business success. But even this line is blurring with social entrepreneurship... and activism... and entertainment. Are Lady Gaga and Muhammad Yunus entrepreneurs? [and has anyone linked them in a sentence before?]

I like where you discuss the ability to conceive the network that must be built (or business model) and then to actually construct it. And we know this is an iterative (learn by doing) process, much too complex to conceive at the beginning in any but the roughest way. To me, it seems much like sketching out what is in the mind's eye, then seeing how things develop as you start adding more detail. Roger Martin's ideas on the "opposable mind" may be pertinent. We are not dealing with either/or, but rather "yes, and then."

The network concept also makes explicit that entrepreneurship is a team sport, and a relatively non-heirarchical one with few set plays. While our society loves to tell the stories of the entrepreneurial genius heroes that see a market and build the enterprise that exploits it, I think this is often the case of the winners writing history (or at least autobiographies). My sense is that a sketch, a good team, a lot of luck, and often working on something that no one else (initially) cares about much are the more common ingredients. It is hard to remember now how much Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or even Mark Zuckerberg were outliers in the early days. Or Yvonne Chouinard or.... Henry Ford? Fortunately, not everyone agrees on what sucks. But very few burrow into it like some of these people did. Perhaps they had a vision to start, but it likely evolved as they started to do and add people to their network and team.

Sometimes an idea alone creates change across a network (or community or society), sometime it must be manifested in an object or work, sometimes it must be made into a product, sometimes a company, sometimes a movement. I think that either the term entrepreneur will need to expand in meaning, or we will need a new word soon. Maybe instead of having French roots, this time it will be Asian.

Happy new year,

The comments to this entry are closed.