Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A new breed of entrepreneur

If you have made up your mind about something and refuse to budge, watch out!

The Wisdom Age entrepreneurs are heading your way. To convert your theories and beliefs into products and services that incorporate conflicting and contradictory world views, even the beliefs of your most entrenched foes.

These "connectapreneurs" use contradictions as the creative source for their new-to-the-world products and services. They mix the old with the new, the traditional with the leading edge, the beautiful with the ugly, the happy with the sad. Think atheism vs a belief in God. Or monarchy vs anarchy. Or Glamour vs. Glitz.

They search for and discover over-arching ideas that resolve the contradictions between models, theories and beliefs, and in the process, invent new knowledge. Then work out how to apply it wisely.

Wisdom work - and the tools that help people make wise decisions - is one of the fastest expanding sectors of the economy. Which will automate your Knowledge Age job, as well as jobs in IT, mining, construction, manufacturing and agriculture. Because they've found an even smarter way to do stuff than anyone could possibly have imagined.

Google any of these kinds of jobs and see what you find: green, ethical, renewable energy, corporate governance, humanitarian, peace or conflict resolution, social responsibility and social justice. These jobs are designed to solve some of our worst, most wicked problems.

There's a whole bunch of websites which advertise ethical and green jobs. Like, and Certified ethical hacker. Sustainability engineer. Healthy eating specialist. Ecological footprint auditor. Ethics officer. Organic food quality tester.

Don't for one moment think these people are righteous do-gooders who want to ban dangerous, risky, weird or downright crazy activities. No, not at all. This new breed of entrepreneur merely seeks to trawl the depths of your desires as the creative inspiration for new businesses that are highly connected, empathic, playful, engaging, exciting and downright amazing, that eliminate the pain and misery created by greed, corruption and fundamentalist beliefs that take people back to before the Dark Ages.

They are all for extremes, just so long as they are dialectically resolved into a higher order principle or concept, and  tempered with the mantra, "in what ways can you do it wisely" so it is of benefit not only to yourself but to others. So that it helps to bake a bigger cake for all.

There are five rules for the creation of these new products and services:
  • Combine: Mix multiple ideas from different fields, especially contradictory ideas, theories, concepts etc and jump to a higher level to create an over-arching idea that contains and respects the vital essences of their forebears/ancestors/subsidiary ideas.
  • Complete:  Incorporate all the bits of the jigsaw. Don't leave any out that are inconvenient or don't fit your personal model or world view. There has to be a bigger and better world view that ensures you don't make giant mistakes like the big banks or auto makers, who ignored inconvenient truths.
  • Fit: Make sure all the parts of a new product or service are a compact, neat, beautiful, elegant solution. There are very few best fit designs. For example, the tail, wings, fuel, pilot, passengers and engines of an aircraft all have their own unique place in the overall schema.  
  • Wise: The new product or service must serve, not only the needs of the maker and the user, but all others. A win-win-win outcome.
  • Connected: All new-to-the-world products or services need to live within a nested ecology of other products and services. e.g. the motor car goes with shopping malls, freeways, gas stations, tires, engines etc. So when you develop your product idea, develop what goes with it at the same time or otherwise it may never get off the ground. Like electric cars need charging stations everywhere, or fax machines only work when a critical mass of people have one.
This new kind of entrepreneur wants to keep people out of prison by creating products and services that help young people develop the language, leadership and team work skills that allow them to be fully engaged in society, as valuable contributors to wealth and wellness creation. Ensure you are fit and healthy and live to a ripe old age. Help politicians get out the the rut they are in, and change the rules of the game, so the clammy hand of government plays less of a role in our lives, simply because personally and collectively we are all more capable of doing stuff for ourselves.

So what are some of the ways to success as an entrepreneur in a Wisdom Age world? It pays to remember these five principles:
  • Change is accelerating. 
  • Complexity is running rampant. 
  • We all collectively create the future together. It's not someone else's responsibility. 
  • New simple stuff arises from unusual complex combinations.
  • Play is the way to create new ideas and road test each scenario.
Here's some strategies that use these core principles:

Solve big world problems: Some of the best opportunities resolve major world problems simply because they remain unsolved.

Find solutions in strange places. Some of the best product and services ideas come from the most unlikely places. Look to the boundaries between major conflicts, where no one dares to look. For example, to create a spiritually satisfying technology, look at what religious fundamentalists and atheists have in common.

Integrate multiple unique ideas, methods and technologies:  Breakthrough products attack many categories at once. For example, the photocopier attacked carbon copy paper, spirit duplicators and small offset printers. The computer dealt a blow to calculators, adding machines, typewriters and fax machines.

Productize services. Create products that add a knowledge creation or ethical dilemma resolution tool, or embed complex thinking or decision making processes in silicon or biology.

Co-invent with the customer. Collectively create the future together. Involve the customer as a prod-user or localizer-customizer. Work with customers so their customers get to experience your product or service.

Run simulations. Play games to try out the possibilities. Check which is the one most likely to attract customers and support or complementary products and services. What other products are a perfect fit in a new ecology?

Start many projects. Some will win, most will lose. Back the ones that race away the fastest, that garner the most support, that are contagious.

Plan, Plan, Plan. Never stop planning. Do it daily, if necessary hourly. Rethink your strategy constantly. Learn from every customer or supplier, because they will help you perfect the product or service and how to take it to market. Perfect the vision until you live it. And be prepared to scrap a plan if it's wrong.

Sell prototypes. Start making money as soon as possible. There's no point waiting around for an investor. You are the investor. Promise your first customer free upgrades to the next three versions. Your first website and product leaflet don't need to be glossy. They can be a single page with the basics. The features. Benefits. Price.

Discover and promote new uses. You may believe you thought of everything, but people discover new uses you never ever considered.

Work with others who have resources. There's a whole bunch of people out there who have the skills and tools you need to get started. And they won't cost as much as you think. Or they may be prepared to contribute to the project, especially if they stand to gain revenue from your ongoing success.

Loyalty pays. Be really loyal to the people that help you and forgive those that fail you.

Don't delay. Start today. Don't worry about the patents and trade marks: It may be handy to get a patent for your new idea or a trade mark for your logo/brand, but it costs a lot of money and takes a very long time, as long as a decade, and if someone infringes your patent, it costs even more money and diverts your attention to pursue them.

So here's an unstructured workshop to create a new Wisdom Age opportunity. Just apply the rules and go for it.

You have been given the task of creating a new Wisdom Age product or service? What is it and how will you take it to market?

Or a structured the short session we ran this week with Professor Abe Tawil's business class at Baruch College, City University of New York. Thanks everyone! You were great!

1. Brainstorm a list of things that make you as a customer unhappy, angry, concerned or frustrated?
2. Describe a problem that is being created for people and society by accelerating change and increasing complexity.
3. Brainstorm a list of the world's UNSOLVED PROBLEMS e.g. poverty or war or CONTRADICTIONS e.g. disputes between atheists and religious people?
4. Give an example of a product or service which 20 years from now people will laugh at and explain why it is silly, clunky, quaint or ridiculous.
5. Make a list of things people valued 50-1000 years ago that we no longer value, but might value again.
6. Brainstorm a list of products/services which are commodities (all the same) and may be ripe for re-invention.
7. Choose 1 or 2 new technologies that have yet to be widely implemented (eg. biomimicry, nanotechnology, ethical dialectical discourse) to add to your mix.
8. Craft an idea for a wisdom age product/service that overcomes a customer dissatisfier, solves a major world problem or contradiction, that people will no longer laugh at, was ripe for reinvention, revisits old values, and includes a new technology and helps people APPLY KNOWLEDGE WISELY.  (Name + 25 word description please).
9. How can you get all the products and services to fit together as an ecology, interdependent, connected as a self-supporting, self-developing system. Choose one or two of the product ideas and describe how to connect them?
10. Choose one of the new product ideas and develop new ideas for connected products and services that could support it as part of a new system.
11. Write a four-line rap song for your best idea to explain how it works/benefits the customer. e.g. The new Apple Ipad, really is glamorous, it makes us want to be, platonically amorous.

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