Never Discourage Anyone…But Don’t Motivate Them Either

Never discourage anyone … who continually makes progress, no matter how slow. – Plato (427 BC – 347 BC)

Never.  NEVER!  NEVER!

I wish the judges of enterprise competitions would understand the importance of this.

At the grand finals of a recent dragon’s den type event (which included the usual cocktail of local business people, ‘would have been’ apprentices and celebrity millionaires on the judging panel) 6 finalists were asked to pitch their ideas.

The setting was the enormous stage in the Main Hall of a local University.  Powerpoint, radio mics, lapel mics, comperes.  It had the lot.

The audience?  A couple of hundred family and friends, enterprise professionals and housing types.  Some of the finalists took to this platform like a duck to water.  For others it was more like lambs to the slaughter.  I suspect for none of them was this a situation that could REALLY be justified as a legitimate and essential part of their ‘enterprise education’.  For most it was certainly not timely.

The task?  Deliver a 6 minute pitch about your business/start up idea and then face 6 minutes of questionning, while dealing with problems with both sound and AV systems of farcical proportions.  These were so acute I began to think they were deliberatley staged to test participants’ ability to think on their feet.  I am still not sure if the computer maintenance business sabotaged their own powerpoint to make some sort of point?

And the judges seemed to have available to them one of two responses.  The first were variations of  ‘You have something’, ‘You will make this work’, ‘Whatever you try you will find a way’.  At least one of the judges seemed to be able form this response based on just what people looked like!

The second was ‘You have got a problem’, ‘You have got nothing’, ‘It is terribly confused’, ‘Your name doesn’t work’.

It is hard to know which of these is responses is more dangerous.

I am sure the event and the competition that led upto it was a great success for funders.  Lots of PR, a big dinner etc.  But can we really say this is community engagement in enterprise?

I suspect that some of the competitors found the whole process deeply discouraging.

Interestingly the winner and runner up were both graduates.  Another wonderful example of enterprise skimming?

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