Woo hoo for women entrepreneurs! They will lead the way for women in other sectors to shatter their ceilings.
-- Geri Stengel, President, Ventureneer & Stengel Solutions
Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location.
-- Reid Garret Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn
The new year has begun at a brisk pace and entrepreneurs, educators and technophiles are expected to keep up, just to name a few. From the showrooms of the CES in Las Vegas last week, to our televisions when Apple unveiled the new "Verse Anthem" iPad Air ad, to breaking news that Google acquired NEST for a cool $3.2 billion in cash, the message we are getting is that it is time to clean house.
It's time to make way for serious machine learning, time to teach American kids more science, technology, engineering and math classes (STEM), and time to start speculating on the disruptive innovation of the future -- which will be what exactly? Medicine? Robotics? Big Data? Hardware? Smart Software? Sustainability and energy?
I believe that 2014 will be a banner year for disruptive innovation, setting the stage for the next decade, starting with innovating and invigorating our mindset about entrepreneurship, about technology and about crafting a meaningful legacy for the next generation of humanity to benefit from. Google may be "getting its house in order" but it's time to get our own priorities in order, re: best practices in the workplace in 2014. It's time to clean house within ourselves and toss out outdated, stagnant thinking, especially with regard to female entrepreneurship. Starting with these three mindsets:
1. Old Mindset: As a startup entrepreneur I need to attend conferences to learn and be mentored by the speaker. New Mindset: Attending conferences to meet others who can be virtual mentors can help me learn at my own pace and usually on my own time.
Speakers at live seminars are rarely "gestalt" experts, and thus may not make good mentors right away, especially for newly minted startups. As a keynote speaker myself, I have often prepared (sometimes over-prepared) my topic, only to be asked before/after my speech/presentation to mentor someone in an area I don't specialize in, never presented on and know nothing about! It's hard to keep up, and there is a steep learning curve these days. Niche learning, like niche markets, are becoming a reality and byproduct of our busy lives and the Digital Age. Human learning and machine learning are in a race to the finish line, one that seems further with each passing day. Conferences rarely yield holistic learning experiences. You're lucky if you get a few takeaways. So why attend? For the networking opportunities! Cammi Pham hilariously and succinctly writes about this here.
2. Old Mindset: As a startup entrepreneur, my mission is to feverishly guard and hoard my service/product and company culture to the point where the customer and the "inner office" see a different mission statement altogether! New Mindset: Transparency is actually a sound strategy to practice consistently in real time and online in social media, to craft one's story and imbue one's entrepreneurial mission with a sense of purpose, not just a mantra for profit.
As someone who began my entrepreneurial journey in 2009, when the entrepreneurial revolution started to take off, I have learned that a startup entrepreneur needs to share his/her story and mission to increase the transparency of his/her company culture. Why? To drive sales and accrue customer loyalty in today's digital "Wild West" arena and mindset, both of which are an anomaly to old school outbound content marketing folks. The ones who still don't get that transparency is a foregone conclusion of the social media movement. Why? Because a closer look at social technology use, and the startup movement in general, reveals a growing hunger for connected, creative and collaborative leadership, something Victor Hwang recently writes eloquently about and sees as well:
[There's] a deeper cultural shift that cuts to the heart of the human condition. It reflects a dissatisfaction with the way much of the world has gone for the last several decades. It marks a transformation in how we view our societies, how we convene our communities, how we create value together as human beings.
Adopting a mindset of transparency, of optimism and even enthusiasm about social media, can help an entrepreneur succeed. It can also help one stay on course, re: the mission, and harness technology for the greater good. As Geraud de Ville writes:
The networked nature of web 2.0 applications, in particular social media, and the explosion of users worldwide provide citizens and activists with unprecedented tools to communicate their ideas, mobilise supporters and take action outside established hierarchical power structures.
3. Old Mindset: As a startup entrepreneur I need to stick to my plan to dominate the market, gut the competition, and avoid new tech trends that can distract me and detract from my goal to be successful and make money quickly. New mindset: Embracing new ideas and new technology, including social technology means embracing the human capacity for creativity and change. It means changing my trajectory, accordingly, as needed, and embracing new learning experiences. New frontiers and opportunities for intellectual, emotional, and yes, economic growth. An entrepreneur's "lightning in a bottle" is not the money he/she accrues. It's the people who form the virtual community, the loyal customer base, the fellow passengers and members of the "think tank".
As a startup entrepreneur, I've learned that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination. Why? Because paying attention to the road markings and the pathways, lead to lingering. To taking detours. To unexpected learning. To forging surprising connections with fellow travelers. Human learning is a process, hopefully a lifelong one, and a collaborative one. It takes the architecture (infrastructure of technology, behavior, i.e. routines/habits and episodic memories) of life and synthesizes it with a person's shared experiences, dreams and aspirations, perceptions gleaned from the five senses, and beliefs, rendering an artistic tapestry that becomes our theory of mind, and subsequently our story. Entrepreneurs need to be mindful that their bottom line is the collaboration they will embark on. Austin Allison also sees this and writes about the fact that the entrepreneurial arena is "a people economy where personal relationships and humanity determine success."
At the end of the day, we all need to reevaluate our mindset about disruptive innovation, about strategy, and about success. No matter what technological advances and corporate back room deals occur over the next year, one thing is clear. Social media's prevalence, and cloud computing relevance for that matter, are all impacting on entrepreneurship. As Greg Satell writes:
The winners will prevail not by dominating the value chain, but through making it easy for developers to collaborate and for users to adopt the technology cheaply and easily.
Isn't this reason enough to start changing our mindset now, so that everyone wins?