I read an allegory the other day – a professor of physics ask his first year students how would they use a barometer to measure the height of a building. The first student said he would measure the atmospheric pressure at the bottom, then again at the top and use a well-established formula to convert the difference into metres. A second student said he would take the barometer to the top and drop it, measure the time it took to fall, and using the physics equations around gravity, calculate the distance. A quiet business school student who was also taking physics for some strange reason, said he would take the barometer to the facilities manager as a gift and in return would ask him to tell him the height. (Ackoff, 1978)
The fable is not simply to say one way was better than the other, the fable was to help us see that problems, when opened up to different perspectives and thinking, can be solved or at least ‘potentially’ solved in different ways. Each way has merit, each a different set of skills to apply. I like the humanistic way as it clearly involves a degree of negotiation and bartering skills, the other two ways, are of course very dependent on the technical ability of the student.
Being a solo-entrepreneur does not allow you to consider different ways because inevitably we do not have the time, or ability to shift our thinking in such an extreme way. We need teams around us to be able to gain feedback, bring in different worldviews and see, in doing that, a whole new approach to something.
There are many ways to build a business. I witness many who simply follow an independent pathway, who reach for their own rucksack of ‘how to do something’ and make a fist of doing what they can do. It works, for a while, because we repeat skills and thinking that, in our minds have merit because they got us to this point. The challenge though is will they get us to the next level. Stoics believed in the force of self-improvement, of bring to life a commitment to learn, and that means always looking to act differently.
What I did, could I have done it differently, done it better? If so how?
This desire for constant improvement is an arduous journey, not an easy one to take but if we are to build something better then the challenge is clear, we have to get better at bringing in fresh ideas, new thinking and move what was, to what can be. To do this in a vacuum is a possibility but to do it in a community of people who have a vested interest to see you do well because they know success begets success, no matter who is being successful, this is the most empowering ways of working.
Communities of practice, what we build here at Relocon, are learning communities. People with a shared interest in collective success coming together around a domain of entrepreneurship to practice and hone the depth of their understanding. We are do not set ourselves up as coaches, that is we will work with you to give you the confidence to see things differently, but we do this as educators opening up debate through the power of social learning to reshape your thinking.
We believe that ‘ff the colony looks after itself then the individual bee will benefit’.
This region has a vested interest to see people prosper, why, because if they do they create new opportunity and that simply means potential. We can write a business plan that puts our thinking in a box or we can write a mandate for purpose, which is open to emergent opportunity, our ability to say No as much as our ability to say yes.
I think the fable says a lot about an entrepreneur, we like the short cuts, the smart outcomes – the constant need to find the next life hack but sometimes the harder route is equally as beneficial.
Relocon is dedicated to supporting and connecting the many facets of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. We build learning communities in the domain of entrepreneurial education as the means to enhance our abilities to spot entrepreneurial opportunity through practice, observation and action.
Ackoff, R.L., 1978. The Art of Problem Solving – Accompanied by Ackoff’s Fables. Paperback Ed. Toronto, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.