A truly fascinating series of speakers were on show for the first Google Firestarters of 2012 to discuss the theme of Entrepreneurship. Indeed this was the first of two talks in a week on the very topic (I’ll follow this up with a further post on the second talk shortly). What was so refreshing about each of the speakers was to demystify some of the preconceptions of entrepreneurship we have in the UK – usually characterised by the likes of the Apprentice or Dragon’s Den. But more importantly it illustrated a new model for enterprises to adopt in an ever changing and confusing world.
The modus operandi for most business schools is to teach howÂ you run or create a successful business. The question why plays second fiddle to a common set of rules, methodologies, and connections that enable business graduates to make scaleable business models. This throws up an interesting dilemma because the majority of business graduates tend to gravitate towards mainstream business sectors e.g. banking, consultancy, and insurance. It begs the question whether business schools are effectively homogenising entrepreneurship?
If the focus for business schools continues to be on exit strategies and path to maturity where does that leave the question of why someone embarks on creating a product or service?Â It was the question why, that provided the glue between the eclectic mix of speakers at the first Google Firestarters of 2012. David Hiette of the Do Lectures eloquently spoke of the need to frame the question why, before he could start his new denim business from scratch. The question why was expressed in the quality and the craftsmanship of his products, that could only come from people with the experience and pride in what they do.
Asking the question why differentiates the enterprises willing to look at the world slightly differently. Rather than slavishly wandering down a well travelled path, there is an opportunity as Adil Abrar paraphrased to “head for the ditch”. Essentially for entrepreneurs to play at the edges and work inwards towards the mainstream. That’s where the really interesting stuff happens.Â Toby BarnesÂ to took the concept of playing at the edges with passion even further by suggesting that in today’s connected world it’s never been easier to scale niche hobbies. His key message was to designed for an audience of one and scale outwards, as oppose to broadcast to the widest possible audience.
I’ve spoken in the past of “Fetishising the Physical” – a growing interest in making things as a reaction to the intangibility of our digital lives. All of the speakers at Google Firestarters demonstrated examples where digital is firmly integrated into a physical and emotional experience. David Hiette spoke of objects telling stories too. We already invest our emotions into objects we love and have a story to tell. Â What if objects were tagged with the memories of previous users that can be accessed to create their own timeline and sense of history.
It’s this space between the intangible and the tangible that opens up new opportunities and thinking. The term Entrepreneurship has been rooted in the traditional economic construct of labour and capital since the 19th Century. However as the relationship between labour and capital has changed in the digital age, entrepreneurship to me means opening up new areas of play for enterprises.
This idea of a new space for enterprises to operate in can only come about through making something you passionately believe in available. By bringing ideas, no matter how left field, into the mainstream shines a light on a brighter and more exciting future.