SAIT Polytechnic, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Rumours. Collusion. Mafia-esque tactics. Death threats. Managed reserves. Declining market share. Factory worker strikes. Reconciliation on the horizon. Tiny red boxes. Fresno, California. What’s the industry?!? … The raisin industry. Yup, raisins. Longish read, but lively storytelling from The New York Times in: The Raisin Situation.
There are thousands of exercises and prompts we can use to devise more creative solutions and unexpected innovations (beyond the dreaded group brainstorming myth!). The book, A Beautiful Constraint, explores this idea of limitations (self-imposed and invented) as catalysts for ingenious problem solving and design. For example, the propelling question method that combines bold ambition and a significant constraint, such as “How do we grow better barley using less water?” or “How do we exhibit at this furniture fair in Italy without paying for a booth?” The inherent tension and discomfort of these constrained aspirations that seem paradoxical generate more divergent, both/and solutions that embrace integrative complexity.
Seeing & Listening
Great interview with Kevin Systrom, Instagram co-founder, on The Tim Ferris Show podcast & video interview. Many topics covered, including the bumpy origin story of Instagram, but my favourite is his advice to startup founders that they should actually solve a real problem instead of hacking trends! Systrom talks about the best ways to read a book — reminded me of what’s sometimes called “Harvarding” — an approach to strategic reading that helped me a lot in my graduate studies. He also suggests some helpful old-school business books to read, including The Goal. I read The Goal and Maverick in the 1980’s (as suggested by my friend, Noel Cheeseman) and still highly recommend both books.
A significant aspect of my research is uncovering the values-based vocations and creative drivers of innovative entrepreneurs. This episode of Ezra Klein Show podcast (from Vox), “Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle,” explores our current obsession with personal productivity, finding meaning in our work, and tying up our identity in our jobs.
Airbnb needed a new font that was better at scaling between fine print, digital UI, magazines, and billboards. They had a lovely sans serif font designed by the folks at font foundry Dalton Mag. The results are fresh and the font name that winks at the BnB (breakfast) is brilliant: Cereal ;-).
If you think that weekend startup coding camps, college dropouts, growth hacking, unicorn chasing, pitch events to venture capitalists, and hockey stick growth are the signs of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem — think again. I love Vivek Wadhwa for his myth busting about entrepreneurship — here in this excellent study with the Kauffman Institute in the USA: The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur. A few of the report’s findings: the average age of entrepreneurial founders is 40 and most are married with children. Most (95%) have completed a bachelor’s degree, with almost half (47%) completing advanced degrees. Most (75%) had worked as employees at other companies for more than six years before launching their own companies — with nearly half (48%) having more than ten years of work experience before they decided to build their own business.
Mariana Mazzucato (PhD) is another one of my research heroes. Her work focuses on the role government can play in innovation and recommends the risks inherent with public funding of core research (like for the iPhone and Google) need to be balanced with the public sphere also reaping some of the rewards when the technologies and processes are commercialized. A recent interview in Strategy + Business with Massucato re-emphasizes on the need for “collective value creation” through public and private sector collaboration on innovation and economic development goals. She has also founded the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at the University College London, UK.
In addition to regular client projects that are moving along, this week I worked with research collaborators on finalizing the Phase 1 report for participants in the Canadian Values Conversations project. More to come.
Hung out with the Mount Royal University Innovation & Entrepreneurship folks this week. Will be doing some curriculum design and teaching for them this year. (I always love working with MRU.)
Strategizing with my sister, and co-founder, on upcoming opportunities and plans for our company, New Cottage Industries & Co.
Question of the Week
“If you want people to modify their behaviour, is it better to highlight the benefits of changing or the costs of not changing?” — Adam Grant, PhD, Professor & Author, in his book, “Originals - How Non-Conformists Change the World”