There is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.
Archives for March 2010
I’ll Name That JSC in….
Leeds City Council is inviting residents in Harehills and Chapeltown to enter a competition to name the new Joint Service Centres that are being built in their respective communities.
One of the criteria is that name should appeal to all local residents. Good luck with that!
My vote would go for The Hayfield as the name for Chapeltown as it is built on the site of a notorious pub.
You can access the competition details and entry forms here.
Entrepreneurship or Rockin’ Da Vote?
There are a number of competitions out there designed to ‘promote enterprise’. In some of them the key arbiter of success is the ability of the would be entrepreneur to turn out a vote. Whether it is about getting your pals to turn up at a dinner and vote (old skool) or winning support on the web as in Barclay’s One Small Step Competition this is a puzzling phenomenon.
Prizes are awarded in part on the ‘quality’ of your business idea, as established by judges, and on the number of people who you can persuade to ‘click or tick’. Kind of Dragon’s Den meets Britain’s Got Talent. A popularity contest with business plans.
I would rather see bankers, and others with cash to spare, investing in businesses rather than giving prizes through competitions. Competitions identify winners and losers. We should be identifying ‘investment ready’ and ‘not yet investment ready’ if we are really interested in supporting entrepreneurs. And what happens if the winner is not yet investment ready? Or they require investment at a different time or level to the prize? What if it is not cash that they need?
Competitions work well for the publicists and the marketeers. But I am not sure who else they really serve. Let’s put our time and money into proving real support on the journey to investment readiness.
Let’s get back to the work of making informed investment decisions instead of awarding prizes in swirls of publicity. Of helping entrepreneurs on the long journey toward investment readiness that rarely fits neatly with competition deadlines. This way more entrepreneurs might get the right level of investment at the right time rather than a few ‘lucky’ prize winners. I remember hearing one ‘prize winner’ wondering how to spend the £10k she had just won and making some quick and bad investment decisions to fit in with competition timescales. Her business is no longer trading. Another asked me whether I thought the cheque made out in his name was for him or for his business? The last I heard he was splitting it 50:50.
I also believe that the ability of the entrepreneur to raise clicks and votes is a poor indicator of success. Let’s face it on this basis Paris Hilton is going to give Warren Buffet a beating. Ashton Kutcher would be a nailed on winner. Unless of course the other finalist was Steven Fry. The best connected and most socially networked do not have a monopoly of good ideas. Nor, in general are they the ones for whom the investment might make the biggest difference. Such voting mechanisms are surely discriminating unfairly?
As it says on the One Small Step website
‘it’s worth getting supporters on board now, so you’ve got plenty of local backing in time for voting’
And this perpetuates another myth. That business ideas are in competition with each other. That we have to choose winners and losers, when the market will do this much more effectively in its own time. In fact we should be looking to help everyone with passion, talent, commitment and a viable business idea. There is always room for another good idea. Investors will back propositions that meet their criteria for risk and reward. I am not convinced that creating winners and losers in very public competition really helps.
It is not about the competition for first place but about the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which players collaborate and support each other as much, if not more than they compete. I have seen how competition based on popularity can damage local entrepreneurial ecosystems as the community fragments into ‘camps’.
So, if you are about to sponsor yet another ‘enterprise competition’ please just pause for thought. Could your money be better used to create a sustainable and enterprising society?
Anger Does Pay – Big Time
They usually write a lot of sense over at management issues, which is why I was a little surprised to read an article called Anger Doesn’t Pay.
In my book it is perhaps the most important driver for change and innovation. Anger serves a surprising purpose . It gives us a clue, a sign that there is something here that we can have the energy and creativity to make better. Anger pays much more than indifference which at time seems ubiquitous.
What does not pay of course is losing your temper. Shouting and displaying your anger in ways that alienate people rather than recruit them to your cause.
So value your anger, cultivate it, harness it and make progress. Just don’t let it ignite your temper!
I help accidental managers become outstanding managers – if I can help you give me a call – 0113 815 3765 (UK)
Living the ‘Vida Loca’ in Leeds?
Interesting things have been happening down at Granary Wharf in Leeds over the last few years. It is a part of town I did know well. Some 25 years ago, when I was doing my Certificate in Education, I surveyed the site for its field trip and educational potential for teaching geography, history, science, environmental studies, design and biology.
But these days the area is hosting a very different crowd to my Fifth Formers with clipboards and quadrants.
With the development of City Inn, Candle House and a car park under the once vibrant dark arches the area is becoming another beautified waterfront development where those with access to cash can choose whether to invest or spend. Both City Inn and Candle House offer spectacular views and the latter at least is a genuinely interesting piece of architecture (not that I am qualified to comment beyond my own personal aesthetic).
Once the enormous ‘wem‘ that is the Southern Entrance to Leeds Station gets built I am sure that we will have yet another riverside development to be proud of. The perfect infrastructure in which the magical process of regeneration can happen. New life breathed into a barren wasteland by a consortium of socially aware developers, architects and planners with low carbon credentials and a commitment to community consultation.
What is not to like?
Let’s assume that things go well. Retail spaces around the dark arches fill (once again) with quirky, well capitalised, independent retail and hospitality businesses. The ticket barriers in the new southern entrance are a delight to use and lead to a train system that is clean, efficient and reliable. The new apartment blocks fill up with resident’s who sustain sufficient incomes to pay their rents and mortgages. Dozens of jobs are created for residents of the ‘southern rim’ with ‘high grade concierge’ and similar skills. Taxes are paid and redistributed. Surely everyone is a winner? And no doubt this development will be presented as phenomenal example of regeneration in Leeds at MIPIM further fuelling the cycle of regeneration.
But even in this optimistic scenario who benefits from the development of the city? Who makes money? Who has access to opportunities to broaden their capabilities and develop successful careers? Who gets to play in the new waterside development? And who doesn’t?
Perhaps this video offers some clues?
‘at least they’re honest about their vision of Leeds, and the intended beneficiaries’
Remarkable the control software gives over building surfaces, colours and textures yet public places are only populated (apparently) by shiny, happy and skinny Caucasians.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not anti development. Nor am I anti business. And some of my best friends are architects, planners and property developers. They are ‘good’ people, using their talents to the best of their abilities to build a better city. Just like most of us. They play an important role.
But I do see a pattern of investment in regeneration that prioritises physical development and pursues shortcuts to increased GDP based on the importation of ‘talent’ rather than a genuinely inclusive investment in ‘proper’ education. For me regeneration starts between the ears of the people who live in a community. Not between the ears of a well meaning planner. And it is not about engaging locals in the visions of the anointed – but rather finding ways to engage the anointed in the many, disparate and personal visions of local people.
(I know we are investing lots in re-developing our schools. We now have academies in yet more new buildings. We are getting more young people than ever 5 grades A-C that educationalists and politicians promise will provide some kind of magic key to the kingdom. But our schools and colleges continue to fail large swathes of the community.)
I don’t know what gets me more fired up – watching Sports Relief portray as some kind of failure of morality and civilisation children in developing countries both going to work and school, or the fact that we, here in the UK, now have millions of people NOT in education, training or employment. Physician heal thyself. It’s not as if we have magic solutions to export!
I do think we have got the balance of our regeneration investments badly wrong.
That we rely too much on ‘placemakers’ and imported talent to make our city work. That we spend too much on strategic planning and not enough on responding to the real barriers that prevent people from developing their capabilities. We may not be Mother Glasgow but perhaps we too are clipping wings?
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