There are some very smart people around….and thanks to the joy of the internet (specifically YouTube and Twitter in this case) we get quick and easy access to their thinking. Not that trawling through indexes in a reference library isn’t fun of course, but it’s a lot more time consuming!
The specific smart people I am referring to in this post are Marc Ventresca and Grant McCracken . The first is on staff at Said Business School in Oxford and the second is on staff at MIT as well as writing books & blogs.
Ventresca ran a session at the recent TEDx in Oxford, the subject of which was Entrepreneurs and it was through McCracken’s blog on HBR that I came to see this session on YouTube. For those who want more than my perceptions, it’s linked here.
The beauty of a TED talk is they are punchy. 20 minutes maximum and given the diversity of the audience rarely rely on a great deal of in-depth knowledge of the specific area. Ventresca opens his by asking people to reflect on the word entrepreneur and what it has come to mean. He goes on to give what has evolved into the mainstream perception of entrepreneurs, the way it has been ‘captured’ – those who take big risk for big reward, those who are endlessly persistent, those who do things no one else will do and those who are free from the bounds of convention.
Given this is TED the audience was likely littered with real entrepreneurs and he makes the point that often these people are not particularly interested in risk but are in fact passionate and persistent and achieve things in the worlds they are already in. Stop there for a moment…
This is where I got really excited (sad I know) because actually to me what he was describing was not just entrepreneurs but more importantly to me, given the context of my research and reading, he was describing corporate entrepreneurs. Not the maverick celebrity special few, but a definition and understanding that could apply to people within organisations.
The phrase he used that was particularly resonant was, “start with what they have at hand” to “turn what they have in hand to something more” but most resonantly for the consideration of corporate entrepreneurs “they do something in the world they’re in”.
The phrase he used is “System Builder” and he uses various examples to illustrate this but he summarises a system builder with these 3 comments:
- They understand the elements around them
- They combine those elements to generate new value
- They do this by taking heterogeneous elements and assembling them
It’s in these 3 things that I started to think about the differences between corporate entrepreneurs and other successful business managers. I would imagine every successful manager understands the elements around them but the two things that maybe distinguish entrepreneurs is firstly the ability (or creativity in its broadest sense) to combine them but also the ability to recognise the potential in the difference between the (heterogeneous) elements.
Also, given how hard people seem to find it to recognise or admit they are entrepreneurial, without being in a start up or small business situation, this definition could be very powerful in helping increase the identification of relevant individuals within organisations, the growth of venturing within businesses and a return to economic prosperity…but I may be taking this a little far!
I do like smart people….a lot. Now I’m going back to reading more of them
N.B. Any errors in the transcription from the YouTube clip are mine and apologies in advance to Dr Ventresca if I’ve taken his words in vain!!