Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Managers as Myriad Actors

One of the fundamental questions raised during the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna two years’ ago was what our actions will be, as managers, when facing the Great Transformation; in other words, when facing transformational changes that lie in the future for companies, governments and communities alike, what actions will we take today? Will we be one of what Richard Straub, President of the Drucker Society Europe, calls the “myriad actors” who shape the future and impact others or will we abstain from courageous and decisive action?

Peter Drucker talked about the role of managers as “the central resource, the generic distinctive, the constitutive organ of society…” and that managers’ actions are essentially a “public concern” because our survival as a society is “dependent on the performance, the competence, the earnestness and the values of their managers.” (Drucker: The Ecological Vision)

The conversation in Vienna re-examined management’s responsibility to society and humanity. One of the things that drew me to the work of Drucker over 15 years’ ago was his focus on human-centric organizations. And yet, today, we still see organizations more focused on short term profits for shareholders rather than a balance of long and short term value creation for all stakeholders including employees, community and society in general.

Are we doing enough to keep that balance? Many of the speakers did not think seem to think so. They cited studies showing that only 13% of employees around the world are engaged in their jobs (Gallup’s “State of The Global Workplace” report) and that 63% of 1000 corporate board members and C-suite executives surveyed by Mckinsey claim that pressure to generate strong short –term results has increased over the past five years. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do – to shape the future towards value creation for all stakeholders and unleashing the incredible creative and human potential of the people who work with us.

How might we do this? By being “myriad actors”; by looking for ways to shape the future, “see around corners” (as Forum speaker Nilofer Merchant said) and impact others in positive ways. Some organizations, for example, choose to connect leading edge technology and a commitment to improving the human condition (see HopeLab recipient of the Drucker Award for Non Profit Innovation). Others focus on improving employee engagement levels (see Telus, and Dan Pontefract’s work).

I don’t think management can be taught only in a management program; I think it’s a combination of art and edifice – and perhaps this is what Drucker was referring to when he defined management in The New Realities, as a liberal art: “’liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; ‘art’ because it is practice and application.”

We might not know exactly how the future will turn out or how it will shape our industry or impact our livelihoods but we can certainly act – in a myriad of ways – to ensure that we keep humans at the center of decision making within our organizations.

As Richard Straub states in “The Great Transformation” (EFMD Global Focus 2014), “Management is a real world practice of dealing with people and organizations. Managers can make all the difference in the world with their knowledge, their creativity, their emotions and their values.” Managers are myriad actors.

Esther M Clark

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A version of this blog post was published in 2014; two weeks following the Drucker Forum in Vienna.

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Savvy Saturday February 25, 2017

“people who create, craft and love their art tend to focus on these seemingly bad ideas nurturing them into something brilliant. The innovators or the troublemakers who question the status quo may end up making something so remarkable that it creates a movement, a tribe, a following …and major business.”

 

From Esther Clark’s article “Seemingly Bad Ideas” published April 2016.

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An end is a new beginning

“What feels like the end is often the beginning” or “one door closes, another door opens” are useful phrases to think about when a project meets its natural, or unnatural, conclusion.

With international projects, these phrases are particularly relevant. Often times we are met by closed doors on the path to success. It does not mean that the project is done but that it might need to be re-envisioned or changes in someway.

Life is dynamic. Business is always changing. So should our projects. A closed door or “end” is just an invitation to a new beginning.

-EMC

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Growth Mindset: Moving Towards Drucker’s Entrepreneurial Society

Entrepreneurship in the Spanish language is most commonly translated as “emprendimiento” coming from the verb “emprender” which means to ignite or start something. For many generations, entrepreneurs in Latin America have started their own businesses for d4e051b46efa7280a957f01bfb5aeecf1.jpgiverse reasons including, as the management thinker Peter Drucker pointed out, a response to a social problem disguised as a business opportunity. A glimpse at the “Rey del Banano” (King of the Banana) rags-to-riches story in Ecuador supports Drucker’s claim; born into poverty, Luis Noboa Naranjo launched the successful Bonita Banana Company after piecing together profits made from sales of newspapers and household items. Noboa later established the Noboa business group; at one time, his business venture was credited for generating 5% of the Ecuador´s Gross Domestic Product.

Nevertheless, an entrepreneurial venture or entrepreneurial economy does not an entrepreneurial society make. It requires something more: not just “igniting” entrepreneurial fires but having the mindset to ensure that the entrepreneurial flame will not die. An entrepreneurial society requires a “growth mindset” – an idea developed over a decade ago by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck to explain achievement and success. Dweck compares and contrasts “fixed mindsets” and “growth mindsets”; she concludes that if we focus on learning and improvement as a consistent goal, environment, and the country we are born in, economic realities, as well as adversity or failure, can become powerful impetuses to ensure we grow and overcome pre-conceived limitations to achieving success.

Harkening to the 2016 Olympics currently underway in Rio de Janeiro, an athlete with a “growth mindset” pushes through in order to grow as an individual, an athlete and a citizen representing a nation. They see their failures as a call to further action and continuous training; in other words as a “not yet” rather than a “not ever.” There are clear parallels in athletic training to Drucker’s own words describing an entrepreneurial society where “innovation and entrepreneurship are normal, steady, and continuous.”

For an entrepreneurial society to prosper, members need growth mindsets to consistently keep the entrepreneurial flame alive and support those willing to push the limits of an “employee” society in order to find solutions to the world’s problems. Peter Drucker saw entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture as the lifeblood of society (Innovation and Entrepreneurship: 1985). He heralded a new era that would see a shift from an employee society towards an entrepreneurial society. In Latin America, where I live and work, “emprendedores” are igniting entrepreneurial fires with creativity, innovation and problem solving skills; yet the region – like many other major trading areas in the world – continues to call for a growth mindset from members of society that would lead us through economic and political instability and clear past the “same-old” power dynamics.

Global discussions around “entrepreneurial society” must be inclusive with ideas from developing as well as developed countries, public and private counterparts, local and international companies, thinkers and managers, students and teachers, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, CEOs and investors. If an entrepreneurial society is to flourish, we need a “mindset” of constant learning and growth supported by connections across real and psychological boundaries. In every corner of the globe, adopting a growth mindset together with learnings from larger discussions of entrepreneurship and transformation, will help us move to a society of creators, co-creators and organizations that respond ethically, empathetically and effectively to the societies we serve.

-EMC

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Fear, Failure and Duffers

“Better dead than duffers,” my father used to say as we set off for the latest family adventure: a two hour sail on a stormy afternoon on Canada’s West Coast of Canada or a train trip across India. The expression, an interpretation of lines from Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, has stayed with me many years – and many miles – later.*

Last year I studied the cult of failure as part of my consulting practice. How failure is idealized in start-up culture and how it impacts entrepreneurs and society in general. On the positive side, when there is no fear of failure, there tends to be more risk and more openness to trying something new. “Innovation” is attributed to facing failure and questioning paradigms to make something work.

What is interesting in all my research on the topic is that “innovation” happens not because there is no fear of failure but rather, innovation occurs because there is no fear. No fear. Period.

Speaking in the positive, freedom to experiment, make unexpected connections between things, take risks, spend money (or not look to make money with an invention), be bold, be courageous is what characterizes entrepreneurs. Fear is the “thing” that entrepreneurship culture (and every entrepreneur) takes on with each new venture, product, service or innovation.

So when pondering failure, it is not fear of failure that stops me from doing something but fear itself. Fear makes us “duffers” and therefore, abstractly speaking, it might be better to be dead (dead to innovation, experimentation, life, love, etc) than to live a life unlived.

Stay tuned for more info on entrepreneurship and strategy – two seemingly opposite concepts that are a powerful duo present in many high growth companies.

  • EMC

 

*The exact phrase is: “better drowned than duffers. If not duffers won’t drown.” Arthur Ransome: Swallows and Amazons.

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New Year, New Day

It’s 6:45 a.m. and I am in the office. There is a cool calm in the morning before the rush of activity. There is a peace that comes with knowing the whole day is before you and what happened yesterday, happened yesterday.

A similar feeling is enjoyed at the beginning of a new year – a sense of new beginnings, new dreams, new projects combined with the wisdom of yesteryear.

This blog – since it was conceived over 3 years ago – was a platform for my consulting business, Hipona Consulting. It has turned into a place to express business endeavors, learnings from key projects and weekly inspiration in the form of quotes and photography.

This blog will continue. It may take a new form – as a new year takes form and the morning sun burns on the horizon – but it will continue.

A wise woman – my sister Dr. Leah Clark – told me some time ago that consistency is key in blogging. I cannot agree more! Therefore, weekly posts will continue as I share the journey of Hipona Consulting and the challenges (and opportunities!) that come with doing business in Latin America, a women exploring leadership excellence (in the form of corporate governance and organizational leaders) and being an entrepreneur in an unforgiving world.

A new day. A new year. Happy 2016. May the writing and exploration begin!

EMC

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Entrepreneurship – the bug that keeps on biting

I started my own business at the tender age of 13. I hired my first employee at the age of 15. I have gone through formal and informal business training. I have taken entrepreneurship courses, spoken to entrepreneurs, competed in business plan competitions and seen all my life’s savings disappear in a matter of a few years.

Entrepreneurship is difficult. I would welcome the opportunity to speak to anyone who tells you differently. Even entrepreneurs who have endless capital to burn still face uncertainty and daily challenges. Owning your own business is an endless challenge, an endless opportunity to improve yourself as well as those around you, and an endless journey that is not guaranteed to end successfully. For entrepreneurs, business is them and they are the business.

I mention that entrepreneurship is the bug that keeps on biting. From the many articles and books on the subject one would concur that entrepreneurship is not an attractive affair. Failure rates are high. Burn out rates are too. Families are torn apart. Yet what is it about entrepreneurship that keep the entrepreneur going despite all adversity?

The answer is complex. Perhaps a common theme in entrepreneurship is the opportunity to make a difference, the opportunity to create a destiny, the opportunity to place your mark upon the world.

Entrepreneurship is a beautiful expression of what it means to be human and to be “creative”. As babies we are born wanting to create. Some people express this through art others hide their impulses in order to fit into stereotypes or expectations that people have of them around them. Entrepreneurship is creation. And I guess that is why we want the bug to keep on biting…so we can continue to have the opportunity to create and make an impact on the world!

EMC

 

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Fail Fast? Fail Often?

There is a culture of failure inherent in entrepreneurship and in intrapreneurship (entrepreneurship within a larger organization or company). This culture is summed up in Silicon Valley’s startup mantra of “Fail fast. Fail often.” Failure is often celebrated by entrepreneurs and innovation experts as a way to get to success. A badge of honor to testify that they tried and failed before getting to the next big idea.

There is truth in this concept: in order to create something new or make unexpected connections between things, one has to embrace failure. In education, embracing failure is fundamental for students to take risks with their learning and the way they see the world and interact with it.

Should failure be celebrated? What happens when failure has tangible financial and opportunity costs for business not to mention its impact on entrepreneurs, their families and their friends. What happens when we have different ideas of failure? Has someone failed just because they don’t fit in with what society wants from them?

One of the best analogies of entrepreneurship is: “Starting a business is a lot like jumping out of an airplane and assembling the parachute on the way down.” But what happens around the entrepreneur?

In a series of articles, I will explore the question of failure and entrepreneurship and share with you stories from the entrepreneurship (and intrapreneurship) scene around me. Check out the hashtag #resilientwife to find out more about this new endeavor of mine.

Obviously, entrepreneurs want to talk about failure in the context of success – a sort of rite of passage or journey to creating something of value. Understandingly, no one wants to be defined as a failure or be told that their business is a failure. Here lies the challenge…to represent failure, entrepreneurship and resilience accurately.

EMC

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