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...]

Improving Employability…

Businesses reading the future of the labour market and feeding employment needs back in to the education system sounds like a great plan. Except we haven't yet found a way to do it. We do not know enough about how the labour market will shape up with enough 'notice' to make any real difference to the educational process at all. And then there is the small matter that education is not all about employability and entrepreneurship. Few teachers join the education system as a kind of prep school for employers and have an innate suspicion of employers looking for ready made employment 'fodder'. The vision for education is larger than slotting people into jobs. It is about the realisation of potential. In the heads of many education professionals the two goals of realising potential and developing employability make uncomfortable bed-fellows. I have been involved in Vocational Education and Training, both on the policy side and in practice for over 25 years. Not one of those 25 years has gone by without similar diagnoses and prescriptions: A stronger role for employers, more business in the curriculum, better specifications of what it means to be employable (whole careers can be developed in this … [Read more...]

Inward Investment – What’s the problem?

Inward investment - the short cut to a prosperous and fair city where all of our communities can flourish? But, what exactly is it? It is the process where an investor believes that this is the best place to put their money to get a secure and sufficient return.  They may invest by setting up a factory or, more likely these days, an office or call centre.  And most cities employ specialist teams to attract inward investment - to present the best case for their city or region as an investment proposition. But it can go further than this. We may be able to offer specific incentives to investors to bring their money and their jobs to our city.  We may provide them with low or no-cost infrastructure, or other benefits such as an enterprise zone where they may enjoy high speed broadband, simplified planning requirements  and reduced business rates. So inward investment becomes a highly competitive, and sometimes very expensive process to get those scarce investors to being their money to our city.  Inward investment teams are under pressure to deliver, and the dynamic gets interesting as sassy 'investors' play country off against country, region against region, city against city and even neighbourhood against … [Read more...]

Smile or Die – Why I don’t subscribe blindly to the school of positive thinking

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo … [Read more...]

Bonsai People in a Bonsai Culture?

Bonsai = An ornamental tree or shrub grown in a pot and artificially prevented from reaching its normal size The bonsai is not a genetic variant but has within it the potential to become a fully grown tree.  However it is carefully cultivated to meet the demanding requirements of the gardener.  It is fed few nutrients, kept in shallow soil, not allowed to form deep roots, continually pruned and kept 'in proportion'; shaped to the precise requirements of the gardener and the specifications of their profession. Bonsai People Bonsai people have had their development limited, distorted and shaped by the influence of their environment rather more than it has been driven by their own potential and aspirations.  To an extent we are all Bonsai People.  But some people have been more bonsaid than others. And some seem to be very content with their bonsai nature.  While others are frustrated at the sensation that there must be something more in them than this. Yesterday I was on the phone with Rich Huxley and we were talking about developing musicians. I told him of a mentor in Leeds who had boasted to me about how they had worked with a 14 year old boy whose ambition was 'to be the best bass guitarist in the world' … [Read more...]

Enterprise Education Without Enterprise Educators

http://vimeo.com/40000072 … [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...]

Product, Price, Place and Promotion – lessons for the entrepreneur from a virtuoso violinist

What happens when you take a £3m violin, a virtuoso violinist and a platform for them to perform? Well, the answer is - it all depends.  If the platform is the mass transport system of Washington DC or the Concert Hall with tickets going at $100 and more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myq8upzJDJc At least two lessons to reflect on here: The first is pretty prosaic and pertains to that classic of the 4 Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. You have to get all four right.  A brilliant product is nowhere near enough. The second is more metaphysical and probably best captured by Weingarten:  “If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?” … [Read more...]

The Problems with Buildings…

Buildings are expensive things to run.  And these days fewer of us need them as places to go to work.  Or at least we don't need to go to just one of them.  And we don't need to pay rent. Yet there is a vibrant industry driven by developers, politicians and consultants bringing semi derelict buildings, especially in poor communities where regeneration cash is easier to come by, back to life as managed workspaces, incubators and start-up hubs. When money is being sought to kick these schemes off the business plans always look achievable.  This occupancy rate at these rates per square foot, taking a contribution from the community cafe, with fixed costs of x and variable costs of y, within z months we will be generating a profit and re-investing in the local community.  Money is raised work is done and with hard work and good luck the building is eventually opened. Except it is rare that members sign up as expected, rents are hard to collect in an economy where most cities have millions of square feet of empty office space.  Fixed costs are usually higher than projected as budgets over-run and interest repayments are higher than anticipated. That break-even point always seems to be 'just around the corner' even as … [Read more...]

Paul Seabright on the Supply of Shirts…

If there were any single person in overall charge of the task of supplying shirts to the world’s population, the complexity of the challenge facing them would call to mind the predicament of a general fighting a war. One can imagine an incoming president of the United States being presented with a report entitled The World’s Need for Shirts, trembling at its contents, and immediately setting up a Presidential Task Force. The United Nations would hold conferences on ways to enhance international cooperation in shirt-making, and there would be arguments over whether the United Nations or the United States should take the lead. The pope and the archbishop of Canterbury would issue calls for everyone to pull together to ensure that the world’s needs were met, and committees of bishops and pop stars would periodically remind us that a shirt on one’s back is a human right. The humanitarian organization Couturiers sans Frontières would airlift supplies to sartorially challenged regions of the world. Experts would be commissioned to examine the wisdom of making collars in Brazil for shirts made in Malaysia for re-export to Brazil. More experts would suggest that by cutting back on the wasteful variety of frivolous styles it … [Read more...]

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