What stops some people being more enterprising?

This is a question that rewards consideration with each and every person that we meet.  And with every community (and each grouping within it) that we wish to engage in enterprise.

Is it that they:

  • lack a specific piece of information, advice or guidance? (IAG)
  • need someone to diagnose their problems and broker them to a solution provider? (IDB)
  • just need access to the right type of physical space or social network to get going?

(NB These are the most common assumptions – often un-stated – that underpin the VAST MAJORITY – of investment in enterprise support services).  DO THEY UNDERPIN YOURS?  IF SO ARE YOU SURE THAT THEY REFLECT YOUR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL POLICY GOALS?

Or is that:

  • At a deep level they won’t let themselves believe that they could succeed?
  • That they are afraid that if they try something new it will probably end in failure and humiliation – again?
  • That few of their peer group go down such a route – so they will risk losing friends or worse?
  • They see entrepreneurs on the telly and can’t see themselves every being ‘like that’.

I personally believe that for the majority of people it is this type of issue with self-image or sense of identity that prevents them really taking up the possibility of a more (legitimate) enterprising way of life.

Yet few of our services are really designed to help people aspire, believe and achieve.


  1. Hallelujah Mike !

    Sorry but I just couldn’t resist paying you the same compliment !

    In the Leeds LEGI bid, the first barrier that it lists is “Lack of self-belief and confidence about enterprise” … which is a promising start, right ?

    Though, I would suggest that it’s not specifically about lacking self-belief and confidence in ‘enterprise’ but more about confidence and self-belief in managing ‘change’ in general.

    I think most major commissioners of service provision recognise and acknowledge that self-belief, confidence and relevance are significant obstacles to credible and sustainable change in the enterprise arena.

    The $million question for them is … “what to do about it ?”

    The reality is that commissioners face, on a daily basis, the difficult balancing act of the eternal triangle of need v commissioning v provisioning. This triangularly dependent relationship (due to the very nature of public funding) has to have a tight wrap of success evaluation. The very requirement to be able to evaluate success at every step is a major factor, as to why solutions offerings, don’t provide the very things that clients need.

    Most solution providers, that can offer real intervention methods, that deliver personal growth and change at a credible and sustainable level to clients, truly struggle to sell the benefits in a language that commissioners understand. The commissioner’s position has to be “ How does this ‘stuff’ meeting my success criteria”.

    At a grassroots level we know what works but it is hard to translate it into language and time frames that meet commissioners’ immediate needs. If your success criteria is

    “ … transform our most deprived neighbourhoods so that they no longer sit in the bottom 3% most
    deprived parts of the country and the overall success of the programme will be measured in this way.
    We want to see a significant increase in the number of new firms, and with this a rise in the number of local jobs created and a decrease in the level of worklessness.”

    How can solution providers design a service that meets the needs of your clients and your success criteria at the same time ?

    Surely the gap between the two is too wide ? It seems to me that there is a stage in the process that is missing.

    The money, information and support agendas of provision are critically important, but they are significantly later stages in the process. Commissioners understand these areas, as they are closely affiliated to their success criteria. What we need to develop is a process of building from the grassroots up rather objective led downward design cascades.

    The reality is that commissioners need to consider that in order to tackle the real root causes of lack of self-belief and confidence, then they must first lay a solid foundation, which will underpin all their other deliverables. This will ensure success. The foundation part seems to be missing from so many programmes of change. So in effect commissioners are ‘doing things’ to people rather than encouraging the personal growth of people by ‘providing choices for change’. People respond most effectively when they feel engaged and in control and not directed or pigeonholed.

    The other point to consider is the whole area of success criteria.

    I love the quote by Arthur C Clarke

    “ … Someone once said that for every problem there is a solution that is simple,
    attractive …….. and wrong …”

    Now on a personal level, I much prefer Leeds LEGI definition of measuring success, as it is much more effective that looking at VAT registrations. However, I do wonder if it is the right tool for the job ? Is the definition of success driving the right behaviours and solution designs across the whole programme ?

    I mean if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, waddles like a duck, swims like a duck and sounds like a duck …. Then it’s a duck, right ? (unless of course your success criteria say you need a cow …. Then maybe we need to tweak it a bit)

    Food for thought ?
    Talk soon
    M x

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