Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

¿Llegó el fin de la ventaja competitiva?

Existen artículos y libros que hablan del “fin de la ventaja competitiva”. En ellos se explica que la empresa del futuro se basa tanto en activos tangibles como en activos intangibles, conecta –en vez de dividir– intereses y destaca por el alineamiento de valores en vez de la competencia entre intereses, empresas y mercados.

Puede sonar idealista dentro de una sociedad y un mundo de negocios que se vuelve más competitivo cada día, pero a raíz de este movimiento, en la administración de empresas hay una idea muy sencilla y comprobada: un enfoque equilibrado es la clave para que una empresa tenga éxito en el corto, mediano y largo plazo.

Si nos enfocamos sólo en ganancias, no invertimos en proyectos innovadores. Si seguimos sólo lo que hace la competencia, no tenemos apertura hacia ideas nuevas e innovaciones que crean mercados (como explica Clayton Christensen en su libro The Innovator’s Dilemma). Steve Jobs, durante sus años creando productos para su empresa Apple, decía que no le importaba lo que quería el mercado, porque el mercado no sabía lo que quería.

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Photo: Creative Commons

La idea fundamental del “fin de la ventaja competitiva” es que no nos encerramos en lo que hace la competencia ni en generar retornos. Las organizaciones tienen que redefinir el éxito; por ejemplo, la nueva ventaja competitiva puede ser la conexión de la empresa con la sociedad. Empresas que son conectadas con sus stakeholders y crean productos y servicios que tengan relevancia en las vidas de ellos (ejemplo: Netflix, Uber, etc.) son mucho más exitosas que las empresas que niegan los cambios en los deseos y comportamiento de sus clientes. La conexión entre una empresa y sus seguidores hace la diferencia siempre y cuando la empresa tenga contemplada esta apertura a la innovación y conexiones inesperadas.

¿Cómo lograr este equilibrio entre proyectos innovadores que no generan ganancias todavía y los servicios o productos que son codiciados en el mercado? Existen tres áreas estratégicas donde una empresa del futuro “vive” este equilibrio:

  1. Visión organizacional: La visión de la organización está con un propósito duradero y cautivador aprobado por el directorio y desarrollado en conjunto con todos los stakeholders.
  2. Plan de mitigación de riesgo: Se identifican riesgos y su mitigación en todos los proyectos de la empresa, incluyendo proyectos que contemplan un cambio al statu quo.
  3. Plan de innovación: Más que una palabra de moda, la innovación tiene que ver con la inversión en proyectos innovadores y arriesgar fondos en proyectos que son interfuncionales y que pueden demorar años antes de alcanzar la rentabilidad.

Una reevaluación de la definición del éxito a través de la visión organizacional y los planes de inversión (incluyendo mitigación de riesgo y de inversión en innovación/investigación y desarrollo) dice mucho de qué tipo de empresa queremos ser y si estamos aprovechando la innovación y la conexión de intereses. La empresa del futuro, entonces, necesita un liderazgo que tenga una visión amplia del éxito y de la prosperidad basada no sólo en la ventaja competitiva.

 

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This blog post was originally published in September 2015 by Forbes Mexico as a featured business article.

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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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