If I had known where I might end up, I would never have started from there!
Imagine this scene. I am driving through villages in Oxfordshire, England. I am trying to find the village my brother lives in. He has only lived there are few months and whilst I have visited before, I am not familiar with the area. the Sat Nav takes me a route I instinctive know is slightly odd. I follow it anyway, for no well through through reason. Eventually, I find myself on the outskirts of the village, which is quite large. I give up on the Sat Nav, though in fairness it has brought me this far. In fact I want to rip it off the dashboard and fling it as far as the eye can see. I refrain. Seeing two people walking along the side of the road, I pull up to a stop and wait for them to come alongside. They are middle-aged (which means considerably older than me, since I never like that label and want to push it away) so I figure they must be familiar with this Oxfordshire village and anyway they are strolling along as if they know the place. I am confident they will be able to give me directions.
Winding down the window, I call to them. They respond, shuffling crab-like towards the car and bending to the open window. He has a tweed hat on and she a scarf. They look the part. I am confident I am speaking with knowledgable people. “Excuse me”, I say being polite and English. “Do you know how to get to such and such?” I ask directions to the address.
He turns to her. They exchange a look. Slightly puzzled. She smiles mildly. He looks serious and clears his throat nervously. He speaks. “Well,” he says. “If you want to go there I would not really start from here.”
I contain my chuckle and look as if I need a lot of help.
He explains pleasantly what I need to do to get to my destination. I follow his instructions and I am grateful.
I am grateful for two reasons: firstly, I get to my destination and secondly, I never thought I would ever actually hear anyone say anything like, “if you want to go there, I wouldn’t start from here.”
You will appreciate, that whilst I am grateful to Mr & Mrs Ordinary from Middle England, I could barely contain myself.
Entrepreneurship & Innovation is about Intention more than End Points
The longer, I am engaged in entrepreneurship and innovation (and I have been engaged for a very long time!), the more I recognise that the whole experience is more about the experience than the end point. Of course end points matter. Of course, producing something matters, as does generating results, building value, creating profit, etc. End points are not my point really.
It seems to me that the heart of our engagement in entrepreneurship and innovation is in our willingness to travel, to journey, to explore. The “Sat Nav” of the rule book and guides others show us will only tell us what others have done. And many of these “others” will say, “I wouldn’t start from here”, or from “there” or from wherever.
What does matter is that we set out. We begin. And that maybe there will be multiple begins.
A Beginning and Beginnings
It was around 1985 that I had a beginning. I was very dissatisfied with the intellectual rigour behind much being taught in business schools about organisational development and people development. Roughly ten years later, I was working in extremely challenged inner urban communities amongst folks who had miss out on education and many opportunities Middle England and conservative society endorses. - I used to describe these folks to the establishment as, “people you wouldn’t choose to have a cup of tea with”. They taught me a great deal. Roughly ten years later (I hope you are keeping up!), I found myself working in a global communications businesses with offices in the UK, Australia and the USA. I was helping the business think through its “Global Strategy”. The chairman was insistent he wanted to us a (well-respected) framework for strategic development. I advised him to by all means use it, but “we could do a lot better than that”. He insisted on following this conventional route. It was his prerogative. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with conventional routes.
Thirty years on from my beginnings, from my questionings: I know full well that if I could plan the journey, I would not have started from there.
Going where the Road Leads
I think there is an important principle that journeys along broad, wide roads that are well lit and so forth may speed us on our way well. - Imagine such a road as being the conventional approach favoured by the business chairman I mentioned. - Whereas a journey along a stoney, steep, winding road that is not travelled so often may be arduous and challenging and will probably take us to surprising places. - Imagine such a road being that of the entrepreneur and innovator.
For sure, the broad, wide road is great if we know where we are going and can happily follow the Sat Nav of other people’s experience, applying convention. The thing is, this is only reliable if the anticipated outcomes (the journey’s end) can be predicted well. Sure, follow these conventions if you like. Others have gone that way. They will be fine. Maybe.
However it is the narrow, steep way that is the way of the entrepreneur and innovator.
Being Open to What Emerges
You will recall, I advised the chairman of the global communications business, “we could do a lot better than that”. We have.
We have built a whole new approach to thinking about people and organisational development and performance. It is called the SPICE Framework (www.spiceframework.com). Based on the simplest of graphics, the framework can be easily understood and applied. It has emerged from work with challenged communities and developing businesses. It is now used in all kinds of settings and even forms the basis of university Research and Enterprise Strategies.
What has been developed has emerged from journeys; from living with and working with people, especially entrepreneurs and innovators.
We have not created another “sat nav”. We have not created some more rules.
We have created tools for entrepreneurs and innovators to travel with.
If I had planned it, I would not have started from where I did. We are where we are.
We are in a place where our tools are being launched in on-line and game-based environments. They are intellectually rigorous and applied intuitively and I would love to tell you more.
The journey continues and I hope you will join us………………………