Enterprise Week 2008

I am always glad to see Enterprise week come rolling around – every November – regular as clockwork – a neatly planned and managed government backed campaign delivered largely through public and third sector organisations to encourage people to start businesses. 

The irony of it is wonderful.  We, the salaried from the public purse will encourage you – the great British people – to do what we choose not to do.

An already swollen enterprise supply side co-ordinates resources to saturate the week with events, workshops, on-line surveys and other such paraphernalia to make Enterprise Week a success.  We get to hear assorted dragons and government ministers telling us again how important ‘enterprise’ is. 

Enterprise opportunities compete cheek by jowl for the attentions of the aspiring entrepreneurs – many of whom run a mile preferring to work in or on their business.

Enteprise Week reminds me of the local steam festival.  The event is planned all year.  The signs go up weeks in advance and the roads are blocked for days as lumbering steam engines and other pieces of heavy machinery crawl onto site.  Of course the steam enthusiasts turn up in their droves and so too do a large number of the general public – attracted by the bright lights, the romance of steam and the smell of the hot dogs.  But how many of them as a result decide that running a steam engine is really for them?

Comments

  1. Great post Mike. I too share a similar lack of enthusiasm for this kind of set-piece. I’ve spent the last few Enterprise Weeks offering my services for free to the big beasts of the enterprise support world, to help them to bring a few more punters in to their tired formats. I’ve kept my head down this year and I’m not going to anything – I don’t think the world of social entrepreneurship will suffer too much as a result.

  2. Hey Mike,

    I’m a big fan of your blog and know quite a few others at Make Your Mark are regular readers. Its an interesting view of Enterprise Week you have, but probably not a view I’d share.

    Enterprise Week is focused on inspiring young people to ‘have ideas and to make them happen’. What this looks like practically is not an attempt to make every young person start their own business, but engaging them in ways that taps their creativity, passions and interest. You’re probably right that many who have a lot of entrepreneurial ambition already won’t need Enterprise Week to help them – but then thats not really what its about.

    I’ve just watched Peter Jones launch this year’s ‘Make Your Mark with a Tenner’ project, where he is giving £10 to 20,000 young people to see what they can do in a month to make a difference. The amount is pretty nominal, the point is more about how it inspires young people to get up and do something, and thats surely a good thing to be encouraging.

    It maybe seems incongruous that a government funded organisation is encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurship whilst not all of the individuals working there have started or would start their own businesses (I’d like to think most people here are quite enterprising in their behaviour though), but I don’t think this is any more so than other arenas where ideas are imparted – the managers of the big four premiership football teams (scolari, feguson, benitez and wenger) have all been more successful as managers than as players.

    (PS I’m a humble policy worker here so this isn’t a ‘Make Your Mark says…’, just a few comments for you!)

  3. Jonathan

    Many thanks for the comments. The task of inspiring young people is noble and important work. Whether it is best done through a concentrated week of high profile activity, (where an already overly bloated supply side co-ordinates to saturate a somewhat underwhelmed demand side) – or through a long term repectful engagement strategy is the question – and I know that MYM do both! Anything that looks like a policy led, top down, government driven agenda is likely to frighten off as many people as it attracts! In my experience the Enterpise Week stuff will help to enagge those who already have the seeds of enterpise at least partially germinated. The kind of yopung people who can see themselves as an entrepreneur. I thtink it does little to engage those who beleive that enteprise is not for them. Those who are already excluded from the enteprise game because of their own self image.

    And I can almost hear the clients saying – if it is so bloody good why aren’t YOU doing it!

    The Peter Jones £10 is a great idea – but, like The Last Millionaire teaches some very poor lessons about entrepreneurship. Effective Enterprise and Entrepreneurship is NOT about acting on ideas. It is about relaxing with ideas, entertaining ideas, dismissing ideas and only acting on the right ideas. It is about reflection, discrimination and the confidence to recognise that the right idea is worth waiting for.

    Prompting people into action too quickly is the source of many a survivalist (or worse) business!

    I don’t find it incongruous that governemnt backed organisations encourage enterprise. What I find incongruous are the top down, planned and managed approaches that they believe will work! The desire to force conversation about the entepriose agenda rather than facilitate conversationsd about the clients agendas. Enterprise is not something that can be ‘sold’ – it is something that has to be discovered. The more you sell the idea – the more those that need it most will run away.

    The difference with the big 4 is that they are in a ‘shared destiny’ relationship with their clients. They have skin in the game. They are not paid by government to evangelise. Often the best people at inspiring others are not the highly successful ones (sorry Peter Jones)but are the those who have had to struggle to learn the game, to put in the practice – to work hard to make the most of the talent that they have got. Perhaps it was their (relative) mediocrity as players that provided the foundation for their excellence as managers – becuase to perform they had to apply every bit of talent and combine it with a deep understanding of how the game is played, won and lost?

    I guess the important point to make here is that in essence we are on the same side. We both want to see enterprise flourish. We both especially want to see it made more accessible to more people. I just wish we could do it in more person (rather than policy) centred ways.

    Anyhows – keep up the good work – and keep up the comments too!

    Best wishes,

    Mike.

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