Leadership is absolutely about inspiring action, but it is also about guarding against mis-action. – Simon Sinek
Leadership is absolutely about inspiring action, but it is also about guarding against mis-action. – Simon Sinek
“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.
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 diverse 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.
I have spent the last ten years in Ecuador. I though it was about time to start highlighting some of the beautiful discoveries I have made in these years living and working in Ecuador. I’m calling this series Ecuador 3.0 to reflect the Marketing 3.0 idea created by Kotler – that brands need to connect, engage and live in tandem with the wants/needs/desires/values of customer. Ecuador 3.0 is born!
Guitig recently paired up with some talented local designers to create unique bottle designs. More info here (in Spanish).
Drink it in!
In international business, like in politics, local guides or experts are key to obtaining advantages in new markets. Here, two excerpts from the Art of War:
Those who do not use local guides are unable to obtain the advantages of the ground.
We should select the bravest officers and those who are most intelligent and keen, and using local guides, secretly traverse mountain and forest noiselessly and concealing our traces…we concentrate our wits so that we may snatch an opportunity.
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!
This blog has been over two years in the making. At the outset, I sought to link management theories to best practices in Latin America. I have endeavored to provide inspiration to entrepreneurs, managers, leaders and decision makers that will make their organizational efforts resound with people and, in particular, users in Latin America.
For me, as Esther Clark and Founding Partner of Hipona Consulting, it has been a journey of exploration and learning. There are weeks when it is hard to find inspiration in the world around me. It is also difficult to find examples of leaders in real life; even when I know those leaders exist but are barred from acting like leaders because ego, legacy, comfort or other factors in their personal or professional lives. That’s why I think this blog and the messages I relate are important.
While I journey towards new professional challenges, I urge you to come along with me. To “keep on going” towards promoting better management practices, exploring new markets or focusing more on the clients we have. From my side, I will be refocusing this blog to serve my clients better and to share what I have gained for working with boards and executives (and entrepreneurs!) in Latam: connecting interests.
Thank you to my loyal followers and for your comments and engagement over the years.
Recent events made me reflect on forgiveness; why can’t the word forgiveness have more presence in our world?
Our society was founded on great movements with visionary leaders that embraced the essence – and benefits – of forgiveness to build relevant communities, businesses and families.
There are many leaders that choose forgiveness over revenge, hate or indifference; the Civil Rights movements in the US, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and Gandhi’s peaceful revolution were all sparked by a shared belief in non-violent protest to change the status quo. Forgiveness can cross geographical, religious, racial, social, political, and economic barriers. It can even transcend time. Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King became incredibly powerful by choosing to forgive. They forgave to be at peace with the present. Whatever happened to them or to their ancestors, they did not believe that ignoring the problem or encouraging hate was the answer. The answer, for them, was forgiveness; it was an action they could take – and they encouraged others to take – that would have a positive influence on a better future. The profound act of forgiveness made them visionary leaders.
I live in South America and far removed geographically from recent events in Europe and Asia. Nevertheless, I know community and business leaders who are victims of crime, of discrimination and of corruption. Some of them live with the expectation that the same negative things will happen to them again and some believe that their future can be different. It could be described as the difference between the fixed and growth mindsets. Naturally, there are also those people that are on the fence about their future; like most human beings, they experience moments when they are positive about the future and others when they keep thinking about the immitigable risks. I believe the gap between the two groups of people (or different feelings within the same person) is bridged by a simple phrase: “I forgive.”
“I forgive” is about creating peace with the present so that we can be open to new experiences. Forgiveness is personal because it has an impact on our lives even if the event happened long before we were even born or only yesterday. Making peace with ourselves and with people around us means acknowledging these terrible things – directly or indirectly – and making the decision that while events like these define part of our lives, they are not all defining, all-encompassing and all being. Human beings are bigger than the terrible things that happen to us and we can make change happen. Things can be different. Just like the brave leaders mentioned before, we don’t have to accept the status quo.
Maybe, just maybe, it is cool, it is relevant, and it is positive to forgive.
My idea is simple – say “I forgive”, post it, share it, write stories about it, make videos, take photos, make music, create art. Get the word “forgive” out there.
If we restore the word forgive to our vocabulary and to our lives, we can use it as an opportunity to build healthier businesses, communities and families. If we talk about building a better future for our children or future generations, forgiveness must be part of it.
Now, more than ever, the power of collaboration is manifesting itself across space and time. Digital tools are helping us to create connections between seemingly disparate interests and to solve problems on a global scale. Nevertheless, in regions in development and, in particular, in Latin America, there exists a range of problems in the public and private sectors that could be solved through collaboration, innovation and excellence. Problems such as energy generation, response to natural disasters, and high school desertion to name just a few. Design thinkers say that collaboration is viable when there is a better understanding of users, a relevant place to prototype ideas and the built-in motivation to implement those ideas. If you turn this around, it holds true that if you don’t have these three elements, collaboration – and the viability of using “community” to solve problems – may just be impossible. What is happening in Latin America, then, to make “community” viable? Perhaps a closer look at these three elements can help us see why the region is falling short.
First, when we better understand users, we can better address needs and design a product or service that fits those needs. Seems simple, but implementation of this element is difficult in high context cultures such as those that exist in the majority of countries in Latin America. In cultures that encourage alignment with social status and formal social rules, understanding users – and users in multiple interest groups – is a challenge. It involves using interviewing techniques and empathy to gain a complete understanding of stakeholders and usage. Understanding what question to ask and being able to bring the answer from various areas into context, helps form an accurate picture of users and their needs. Striving for a better understanding of users – and using multiple research methods in order to overcome cultural characteristics – is key in solving users’ problems.
Second, designing solutions must be an interactive process. We will always need a place to work with stakeholders, test assumptions and take risks. This is why innovation centers sometimes fail: they need to work with community and not in isolation from them. Nevertheless, innovation centers in Latin America specifically are extremely useful in fostering more cross functional collaboration and mitigating some of the risks associated with large scale innovation investments in developing countries. Multinationals Dupont and BBVA as well as “multilatina” Stefanini have successfully gained insights and new products through their centers; illustrating that while innovation centers may have their drawbacks, they can be a relevant place to prototype ideas.
Finally, motivation must be present at the idea implementation phase. This means that while we may have a prototype or project, there is always more work to be done in implementing the idea. What can help with the successful implementation of the idea is community. As the old saying goes, people are more committed to that which they help build. If communities are collaborating on ideas that benefit them; they will have a higher successful implementation rate. There is also the possibility for the ideas that spread. Like a TED Talk, a good idea can spread and be implemented much faster when members of community that will benefit from the idea get involved and share their passion around a solution.
Is community viable? Yes it is. But seeing collaboration for what it is – working towards understanding users, engaging users and prototyping with users in the Prototype-Pilot-Product triad – makes community collaboration viable. In Latin America in particular, understanding these elements and their unique challenges in our region, is essential in community viability.