E-mail to an Enterprise Professional

If I said enterprise not entrepreneurship then I was too strong.

It is just that we can help people to develop their enterprising soul in so many more and varied arenas – many of which are more intrinsically attractive and powerful media than ‘business’ – especially to young people.  Musicianship, sports, art, food, writing, wildlife, gardening, web 2.0 etc etc.  Why nail ‘enterprise’ to ‘business’ so much of the time?  It just serves to alienate lots of people for whom the world of business seems phoney, vain, self serving, venal and corrupt.

Azjen’s stuff is interesting.  My problem with it is that it presupposes a set of behaviours that we are trying to move people towards.  ie an officially sanctioned version of what constitutes the enterprise curriculum.  I know that these exist – but I question their value.  I believe that the way in which each of us is enterprising is distinctly personal and probably neither transferable nor generic. It is an expression of our personality, culture and our experience as much as of our aspiration.  Enterprise education is therefore about drawing out what is within rather than grafting on what is (according to a gap analysis against our framework) ‘missing’.  It is about helping people to become fully themselves, not to fit our template for enterprise/entrepreneurship.

The fact that you might find enterprise conceived this way hard to measure is not a major concern of mine.  However I KNOW FOR CERTAIN that if we engage more people in this process of self discovery and emergence, a massively high proportion of them will go on to do enterprising and very possibly entrepreneurial things.  Invest in this and you will get increased wellbeing – and there is plenty of cash being spent on that!  Hint towards strategic repositioning, broadening income streams and increasing impact for your organisation.

From a more enterprising community will come more entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, actors, writers, intrapreneurs, political activists and entrepreneurs.  It is this idea of what constitutes an enterprising community that we should develop. Hint – it is not one where the measure of TEA =6%.

To develop a more enterprising community we need to help community activists and gatekeepers, to develop much more benign and open attitudes to the potential of enterprise as a tool for community and personal development.  All the time it looks like a thinly veiled government plot to reduce benefits and increase tax take we can not expect to be welcomed with open arms – especially when the cash runs out – as it will.

Listening to the Millionaire MBA was really insightful for me on this idea of the personalisation of enterprise where, even in the narrow field of high growth entrepreneurship, successful entrepreneurs accredited their success to a vast and often conflicting range of different behaviours, models, ideas and values.  Kalms and Roddick both had very different takes on the politics and practice of branding – yet they both exploited the practice wonderfully.  Similar examples are legion.

Success in business, success in life depends fundamentally on becoming YOU – not conforming to the policy makers aspiration of the ideal citizen.  Enterprise is about the emergence of identity not its manipulation by the Treasury.  So come on enterprise educators.  Let’s drop the obsession with ‘business’ and get on with the real work of educating more enterprising souls.

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  1. Mike,
    Amen brother. This is enterprise thing is surely turning into a policy driven and owned agenda where the government envisions regeneration through the lense of VAT registrations.
    This is a key point missed in the myCatalyst objective. Activity is key, not VAT registration.

    To the point of business success being about more than business. Indeed, we need more liberal arts colleges/universities and more understanding by those who would be entrepreneurs to find sources of inspiration in many kinds of things; arts, science, literature. Learning about 10 ways to be a good boss, or 5 ways to increase shareholder value are nice lists to know–but the key is in application, which takes an understanding of context and creativity.


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