Some thoughts on Collaboration and Innovation

Don't do it unless you have to! If you know what it is that you want to achieve, and you have the power to do it without collaborating then JFDI.  Collaboration is a tool best left in toolbox. unless you have the right job for it. What are you collaborating for? Be really clear on what you want the collaboration to achieve, both for you, your preferred, chosen collaborator (more on this later) and your service users or customers.  What impact do you want the collaboration to make? Develop the vision and rationale for the collaboration - but leave the detailed planning till later Finding the right collaborators depends on having a vision that is credible, compelling and achievable.  But leave plenty of room for your collaborators to get on board with you in refining the vision and getting down and dirty with shaping goals, projects and plans.  You want them to be collaborators remember - not just hired hands... Choose your collaborators with care Make sure that your collaborators being resources, abilities, skills, something to the party that you don't have but that you need to achieve what it is that matters most to you.  Collaborations that bring to the game more of what you already have tend not to … [Read more...]

Olympic Gold – It all starts with a dream….

Shaa Wasmund is a renowned enteprise guru whose own achievements both as an entrepreneur and as a provider of enterprise support have massively outweighed my own.   Shaa asserts that... Every athlete once had a dream to stand on an Olympic stage. But, they didn’t just talk about their dreams, they put in the hours, hard work and dedication to make them a reality. They gave all they had for one moment in time. In my experience many who achieve excellence entered their field because they loved it rather than because they wanted to stand on an Olympic podium or to be a millionaire before they reach 30.  Sometimes it IS the big dream that allows you to put in the hours of dedicated effort.  But much more frequently it is the hours of dedicated effort that eventually allow you to dare to believe in the big dream.  Most of us, to begin with at least, were not motivated by thoughts of winning on the big stage, but by pursuing our interests and exploring possibilities.... Our progress is driven by the dedicated development and exploration of passion and identity.  A journey that often begins with no real clarity over where it might lead, or how far it might go. I think this openness to journeys that start in different … [Read more...]

A Way Forward for Communities?

There is no doubt in my mind that community based and bottom up approaches to enterprise support like those pioneered by Ernesto Sirolli and subsequently developed and transformed by projects like Bizz Fizz and on a much more modest scale Elsie, provide significant clues to the emergence of truly sustainable and enterprising communities. But instead we get celebrity entrepreneurs and academics delivering masterclass after masterclass after enterprise competition on a seemingly endless treadmill driven by incoherent policy and the increasingly desperate search for those Holy Grails of 'narrow'  economic development - the quick win and the high-growth start-up. It must be time for us to develop a focus on long term, community building  approaches to sustainable development that embraces the economy, culture and social cohesion as an inseparable trinity.  These things cannot be pursued successfully as separate entities managed by different silos. They are all part of the same process of 'development'. We need to develop affordable processes that engage the whole community in nurturing the development of those willing to act boldly and helping more of its members to see that bold action will often reap its reward, … [Read more...]

Management and the Start Up

I work with businesses and organisations at all stages of the life-cycle. Pre-starts, start-ups and mature businesses. I often see management DNA develop in the start-up phase and it is seldom a pretty site. Habits and relationships are set early and become very difficult to shake off. This is largely because of the mindset of the original founder of the business: This is their baby; They know how they want it to develop; They have exacting standards. Consequently their management style can be brusque, directive, bruising and ultimately damaging to the long term growth of the business. Ideally I get to work with a business pre-start and ensure that the entrepreneurs builds their management team BEFORE the business plan is developed. This way all members of the team can own the plan and a more open and collaborative management DNA can be established from the start. However this is pretty rare. More usually I am working with an owner manager who has already established a pretty controlling management style. Helping them to see a different way of running the business is tough enough. Coaching them to make it happen is even tougher. Often it takes a real shock to the business and the entrepreneur … [Read more...]

A City of Entrepreneurs

http://youtu.be/61rQczKZB0w They have of course got this wrong.  Their ambition should be to become the most enterprising city - because though business is important it should not be the be all and end all.... … [Read more...]

The business of human endeavour…

For a long time now I have had real concerns about the focus of policy makers, and the projects that they spawn, on 'enterprise' and 'entrepreneurship' as being just too business oriented.  It is as if the only fields of human endeavour that matter are commerce of some kind.  Making money or fixing societies ills. This is especially un-nerving when you see it played out in our primary schools as 6 year olds are encouraged to wear badges that proclaim them be a 'Sales Director', an 'Operations Manager' or a 'Brand Executive'. Yuk! What about all of those other great fields of human endeavour? Climbing mountains, making art, having fun, playing sport, writing, cooking and so on. What if we encouraged our 6 year olds to wear badges that proclaimed them to be 'Footballer in Training', 'Ballet Dancer under Construction', 'Surgeon to Be' or 'The Next Michael McIntyre'?  OK, so perhaps we don't need another Michael McIntyre.... but you get my point? Because what really matters is not exposing more people to the world of business and entrepreneurship.  It is to get them imagining possible futures, and learning how best to navigate towards them.  It is about developing people with a sense of agency and influence over their … [Read more...]

Smart Lord Sugar…

Nice move by Lord Sugar to choose Tom Pellereau as his business partner.  Seriously nice move because Tom's skills complement those of the Lord Sugar rather than replicate them. So many people go into business with people who share similar skills, values and attitudes leading to a very lop-sided business indeed.  Perhaps half a dozen people who understand the product or service, but NONE who really love marketing, sales, financial management, compliance or governance. And I don't think that Lord Sugar is a product man.  At least not any more.  He is now a 'sales and marketing man' a distribution expert. Someone who can get products into the hands of the masses. I just hope that poor old Tom is given the chance to develop products that not only make him wealthy, but also make him proud and enhance the lives of the people who buy them. This would indeed be progress. … [Read more...]

Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…(unless you are policy wonk or their lackey…)

Not every small business or micro-enterprise owner needs a mentor. Mentoring is NOT the only helping relationship. Good mentors are rarely trained in 'mentoring', nor are they picked from a register. Successful mentors are usually selected from within the pre-existing network of the mentee.  They are spotted and developed as someone from  whom the mentee really wants to learn. Mentoring is an intermittent rather than a continuous relationship. Access to good mentors is usually restricted and respectful rather than a tradeable commodity. The success of the mentorship is usually down to the mentee rather than the mentor.  Good mentees know how to choose a mentor and manage the relationship with them to get the learning and the introductions that they need. The commoditisation of mentoring is not a good thing. Mentors are not coaches, advisers, consultants, counsellors or facilitators.  People looking to learn and develop themselves and/or their organisations should think carefully about the kind of 'help' they need. We should help people explore what they want to learn and how they are going to learn it - rather than prescribe yet another 'cure-all' that happens to be 'affordable'. We should focus our efforts on … [Read more...]

Elsie is Born…

I seem to have been a bit quiet on this blog, while I have been doing other things, including pushing Progress School along, working on Collaborate Leeds and incubating a new idea which has finally found the light of day today: The Leeds Community Enterprise Accelerator or Elsie for short.  This provides a community based network of support to local enterprise coaches, advisors, facilitators, in fact to anyone who is helping someone else in the community to make progress. I have high hopes for Elsie in post Business Link austerity economy.  I think it will provide a sustainable high value model to provide practical crowd sourced enterprise support to those that most want and need it. Have a look at Elsie and tell me what you think. … [Read more...]

Enterprising Communities – Missing a trick?

One of my favourite frameworks for thinking about team work was published in a book called Dialogue by Bill Isaacs. The model suggests that if a group is to make progress it needs to have 4 distinct roles handled effectively. Firstly it need Movers.  These are people who float ideas, lead initiatives and generally make things happen. Spontaneous, action orientated and often extrovert - happy to put their ideas out there. In a community I often think that these Movers are akin to entrepreneurs. But a productive group also needs skilled Followers.  These are people who can take the energy and ideas of the Movers and build on them, add to them, take of the rough edges, put in the hard work and generally get the job done.  They are close to what Mike Southon calls cornerstones.  People who help turn the vision into reality. But in addition to Movers and Followers a productive group also needs effective Opposers.  These are people who are going to check the facts, collect the evidence and if there is an objection to be raised, they will raise it.  Constructively, powerfully and effectively.  They will skilfully play the role of the Devil's Advocate and if there is a weakness or a fault-line in the thinking they … [Read more...]

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