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November 2013

Where Innovative Entrepreneurs Diverge

Budding entrepreneurs at recent Lean In meeting in Houston.

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Many of us want to be our own bosses, but not many want to take the deep risk of starting something new and unique. You don't have to do so. Copying and franchising are honorable, but for some of us, hollow. So how can you be original? Proceed from your onlyness. Identify the unique combination of resources and capabilities available only to you.

Inc.com: How Great Entrepreneurs Think 2011-Feb-1, by Leigh Buchanan

Saras Sarasvathy, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, set out to determine how expert entrepreneurs think, with the goal of transferring that knowledge to aspiring founders....

Sarasvathy concluded that master entrepreneurs rely on what she calls effectual reasoning. Brilliant improvisers, the entrepreneurs don't start out with concrete goals. Instead, they constantly assess how to use their personal strengths and whatever resources they have at hand to develop goals on the fly, while creatively reacting to contingencies. By contrast, corporate executives—those in the study group were also enormously successful in their chosen field—use causal reasoning. They set a goal and diligently seek the best ways to achieve it. Early indications suggest the rookie company founders are spread all across the effectual-to-causal scale. But those who grew up around family businesses will more likely swing effectual, while those with M.B.A.'s display a causal bent. Not surprisingly, angels and seasoned VCs think much more like expert entrepreneurs than do novice investors.


Finding a tribe in Houston's entrepreneurial community

I stumbled into the Red Labs coworking space at UH last night and since I have no one on my team, by definition, none of them can be UH students, therefore I wasn't supposed to be there, HOWEVER, they were very nice and I appreciated the pizza and support.

Tq131123f2b1I was interested because they are a member of the Founder2be network. During my last entrepreneurial venture, I knew I needed partners, but I was lazy. THIS time, I'm going to make sure that I'm not working in isolation. Partners and customers are key.

I attended with Karen Aptekar, (@K_A_Productions) who's an MBA student at University of St. Thomas. Tq131123kaAbove is Karen's hand as she pitches her new documentary, which is planned to include a game launch. She was successful in getting access to future partners.

The coworking space for RED Labs at Melcher Hall is very nice. Red Labs drew together an impressive range of students from STEM areas. If they can leverage the Founder2be network, I think they can raise the visibility of UH students in the startup community nationwide.


In defense of complex models of decision-making (i.e., wisdom)

Learning to make sound decisions in the face of uncertainty has to be the most important skill a manager person can have. Knowledge of what worked in the past is fundamental. Ability to recognize potential bias is the hallmark of a more experienced decision-maker. But nothing can make uncertainty disappear.Tq131118db We have to decide in the face of uncertain outcomes. In the best decisions, we confront uncertainty, accept it and make it a part of the plan.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman defends the introductory economics texts where only older, simpler models of decision making are presented.

There are good reasons for keeping prospect theory out of introductory texts. The basic concepts of economics are essential intellectual tools, which are not easy to grasp even with simplified and unrealistic assumptions about the nature of the economic agents who interact in markets. Raising questions about these assumptions even as they are introduced would be confusing, and perhaps demorializing. It is reasonable to put priority on helping students acquire the basic tools of the discipline.

Unfortunately many students never move beyond the introductory class in economics. (I never did.) They are left with an incorrect understanding of how people make decisions. This approach is unconscionable. For example, statistics was one of the most difficult courses I ever had to take, and I'll never truly grasp probability theory, but I learned to respect the complexity, and I found tools that helped me deal with it.

Correct understanding of how people make decisions comes as close to wisdom as any form of knowledge. Let's start spreading it further.


How a selfie can be a vital step in seeing ourselves

I almost didn't post this story because I wasn't sure how it relates to this blog's purpose. Then I saw a video from Nilofer Merchant, and I realized why it's too important not to include.  Tq131105cd

The trend of 'selfies' seems like a social media fad, but it's more. One of the positive side effects of the social media craze has been giving people the opportunity to look more often at themselves. We can't hide behind the camera as easily anymore. Of course, many people use this opportunity in a shallow way, but if you want to think about the deeper issues, I highly recommend Nilofer's video.

 

In the NY Times, Jenna Wortham recently discussed how the presence our face can help us acknowledge ourselves in a story. When we share something we've found, we're not just forwarding something but we're joining the story. We should NOT overlook this opportunity. When you see your face, think about your role, and where you're coming from, and realize that it may not be obvious to everyone else. You have to work on being a clearly defined presence.

NY Times: My Selfie, Myself, 2013-Oct-19, by Jenna Wortham

We are swiftly becoming accustomed to — and perhaps even starting to prefer — online conversations and interactions that revolve around images and photos. They are often more effective at conveying a feeling or reaction than text. Plus, we’ve become more comfortable seeing our faces on-screen, thanks to services like Snapchat, Skype, Google Hangout and FaceTime, and the exhilarating feeling of connectedness that comes from even the briefest video conversation. Receiving a photo of the face of the person you’re talking to brings back the human element of the interaction, which is easily misplaced if the interaction is primarily text-based.

"The idea of the selfie is much more like your face is the caption and you’re trying to explain a moment or tell a story," said Frédéric della Faille, the founder and designer of Frontback, a popular new photo-sharing application that lets users take photographs using both front- and rear-facing cameras. "It’s much more of a moment and a story than a photo." And more often than not, he added, "It’s not about being beautiful."