(Adapted from The Prime Innovation Pattern in The Innovator’s Way)
The use of the nouns “entrepreneur” and “entrepreneurship” hide the reality that what we’re dealing with is a process that’s been intensively studied and defined over recent decades – particularly under the label “innovation”. Innovation is another process hiding inside a noun – and what is hidden is the process of delivery. The entrepreneurial process begins like this:
- Entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs) find in their life or work a disharmony that is an opportunity to create new value for a market that is being overlooked by “business as usual”.
- Entrepreneurs explore the opportunity to discover how to create and deliver this new value, engaging with it as a game with many possible solutions.
- Entrepreneurs keep firmly focussed on the game, its systems and its structures. This enables them to observe how “business as usual” is not delivering the value they see.
- Entrepreneurs then design, discover or recover a new practice to create value for their market that may be delivered as a product, a service or in combination. It may be a recovered historical practice, a new invention, or a practice from another community.
- Entrepreneurs make a deep commitment to delivering new value to their market in a way their market will value.
The ability to step back from “business as usual” and explore for new possibilities is fundamental to successful entrepreneuring. It starts with good emotional management, so that the entrepreneur can engage with the challenge with curiosity, wonder and ambition instead of aggression and frustration.
- Intrapreneur and Borough Engineer Allan Jones observed the opportunity to deliver local cogeneration in Woking (UK). He was unhappy with “the rubbish way” energy was being delivered and leveraged an infrastructure upgrade to deliver locally generated combined heat and power more cheaply than grid supply while creating an income stream for the Borough.
- Engineering contractor Dien McCall explored the structures around US grid requirements for rolling reserves in combination with emerging renewables markets in California to develop solar greenhouses on power easements that could provide renewable energy reserves on-demand, while reducing land maintenance costs.
In both cases, rather than fight the system these guys explored it and got creative.
What’s a disharmony that you could entrepreneur?
The Walkman came about because audio engineer Nobutoshi Kihara’s boss wanted to listen to opera during frequent long plane trips. InterfaceFLOR’s amazing sustainability journey started when founder Ray Anderson was called on to inspire his sustainability working party.
Being an entrepreneur starts with exploring “what’s wrong” with business as usual, then re-inventing it. It starts with an intimate understanding of the existing territory – mapping its contours to discover its hidden potential. It moves way beyond the blame game to seek hidden opportunities for doing well by doing good.
Who might you need to collaborate with to fully understand the structures around the value you want to add to the world?