Sunday, August 29, 2010

Redefining Entrepreneurship

A key part of understanding Kingdom innovation is your definition of entrepreneurship. To be honest, this has been a great challenge for me. One of the struggles I have continually had to work through is the idea that all innovators are entrepreneurs and all entrepreneurs own their own businesses.

The reason this assumption is challenging is that I'm not the business-starting type. I like to fit into a larger context and be a part of a team. I'm also don't have some of the savvy needed to run a business. So my thought immediately was, "I guess I'm just not an entrepreneur and if that is true maybe I am not a true innovator."

Since I edited a book on innovation and have been blogging on it for several years, you can imagine that this idea didn't sit too well. It was always one of those nagging things that I couldn't dismiss but I knew I just didn't have the full picture.

Well, recently I attended a seminar given by Mark Russell, a new friend who owns Russell Media. He has written a book called The Missional Entrepreneur and he provided some good insight. I will share several thoughts that he touched on in his talk over the next few blog posts.

But the one I want to focus on today is his definition of entrepreneurship. He defined it as . . . an innovative state of mind that results in productive action.

Lets break that down:
  • innovative state of mind: That means that you are open to new ideas, asking questions and reframing the issues you face in unique new ways.
  • results in productive action: That means that you take those ideas/questions/reframed issues and you do something with it.
I really love this definition because it does not mandate what kind of action results from your innovation. Instead it leaves that open to many contexts. That means you can be an entrepreneur inside an organization, on a team, or as you start your own effort.

I hope this is an encouragement to you as it was to me. Even if you will never start a business or run an organization, that has little to do with your ability to be an entrepreneur and innovator in your context.

So what do you think of Mark's definition?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What happens when we can only think at Starbucks?

It sounds silly but this is a serious question. As I make my trek through a liminal season between full-time jobs, I find myself working on contract work from many locations - including Starbucks. What I have seen has caused me to think.

As I go into these coffee shops and restaurants with free wireless, I see tables full of workers focused on projects, teams of collaborators discussing their work, business people in the middle of a meeting and HR people interviewing potential employees.

And the crazy thing is that this is all happening in each location at the same time every day!

So back to my question. When some or all of these people get the types of jobs they consider "regular" jobs, will they be able to function in the sterile world of cubicles that they once knew? I think that this will be a harder transition than they think. A Starbucks has legal stimulants, groovy music and plenty of noise. It is a fast changing environment and it reprograms how you go about work. I know, I have had to adjust my work still when I am in such a public place.

At this very moment a huge percentage of the workforce is being reconditioned to work in very different environments than the fortune 500 companies of America. This means that they are meeting new people, learning about new ideas, setting up new environments for innovation and creating a "new normal."

As businesses and ministries begin to rehire they will have to take this into consideration. The millions that were laid off will not go back into the workforce the same. Now that is not necessarily bad. The white collar workers who have been laid off have developed new skills, grown through their challenges and created new relationships.

All that can lead to new innovation as many of these "Starbucks workers" begin to come together around opportunities and new ideas. It can also be a huge benefit to organizations who hire these workers.

The key will be to realize that the transition has changed you the worker and that will change the company you eventually work for or start on your own. All this can lead to innovation if it is understood, processed and harnessed.

So are you a "Starbucks worker"? What has your experience been in this transitionary time? How will you harness what you have learned to create new innovations?

Are you a company or ministry looking to hire? What steps will you take to engage in this new reality?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Serving through An Interview

God give me work till my life shall end and life till my work is done. Amen. (Yorkshire Tombstone)
If you are in a career transition as I am, you are very aware that interviewing is a lot of work. You are networking, filling out applications, researching organizations, meeting with staff, praying about opportunities, taking assessments and the list goes one.
But for some reason we usually put interviewing and job hunting in a different category than "real work." We choose to treat it as a necessary evil that will hopefully result in meaningful purpose. But an innovator, if they are being intentional, will not view it that way. Instead, every job application, every hour of research, every in-person interview, is a chance for you to grow and develop your skills and ideas.
But more than that, every interaction with a potential employer is a chance for you to invest in them! If you are on a job hunt today, part of your job is to invest in those who are considering you. What does that look like? It might be the questions you ask in the interview. It might be an encouraging note or helpful article you send to the HR staffer you are working with. You might provide some key insight into that leader's challenges when he interviews you.
The challenge with viewing the job hunt as meaningful work is that you have to be satisfied with God's timing and results. If God's purpose in having you interview at a certain place was to give them an insight, then your work there is done. That is so hard for us goal-oriented people. We believe that the only worthy result of an interview is an offer. But in a day where offers are few and far between, I think we are realizing another level of how God can use this liminal time in our lives.
Is the job hunt the word God has set before you today? Don't waste this time of service! Look for every opportunity to serve God as you search.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

E-book is the sexiest word in publishing

NOTE: I'm pleased to have Dave Sheets as a guest blogger for Innovation in Mission. I look forward to the discussion his post will generate. You can find more info on Dave at the end of this post. -- Jon Hirst

Amazon’s announcement last month that they had sold more e-books than hardcover books set off a blizzard of stories about e-books, the death of the printed book, and how the industry is going down the same path as the music publishers.

I, for one, am skeptical of a lot of what is being written, but it is important to note that e-book sales are growing and that they are changing the face of the publishing (and reading) industry. As noted, the news is full of big numbers and even bigger predictions. According to Amazon’s Kindle Vice President, Ian Freed1, “We're pretty sure we're 70 to 80 percent of the [e-book] market.” That is significant, even if there is disagreement as to actually how much Amazon owns. In fact, in addition to Amazon’s announcement about hard covers, they expect their e-book sales to eclipse their softcover sales sometime in 2011.

Does this mean the death of the printed book? Markus Dohle2, the head of mega publisher Random House recently was quoted as saying that even though e-book sales are growing “by leaps and bounds”, they only account for 8% of US revenues this year, and may exceed 10% next year.

Dohle, however, doesn't believe that the majority of book readers are ready to make the jump from books to bytes – something that Amazon has been suggesting3 over the past two weeks.

The e-book is today, what the cheap paperback was to the publishing industry 75 years ago. According the Guardian newspaper4, this new “disruptive technology” could carry the same results as the paperback book did – drive new masses of readers to content. But just as the paperback revolution did three quarters a century ago, the new e-book is threatening to drive prices down, which will be a paradigm shift for today’s content stewards.

According to the article, Jon Makinson, the chief of Penguin Publishing, echoes this shift when discussing how easy it is for readers to carry dozens of books with them on their devices. He says that this will "redefine what we do as publishers." The sales trend for Penguin is still growing. Even so, digital book sales are still less than 1% for the media giant, but the direction of the market is clear. In the US, digital books already account for 6% of consumer sales.

Malkinson5 goes on to say that publishers must embrace innovation: "I am keen on the idea that every book that we put on to an iPad has an author interview, a video interview, at the beginning. I have no idea whether this is a good idea or not. There has to be a culture of experimentation, which doesn't come naturally to book publishers. We publish a lot of historians, for example. They love the idea of using documentary footage to illustrate whatever it is they're writing about."

Digital books seem to be expanding the market according to some, while others say that the numbers show that e-books are simply moving the reader from one platform to another. As the sales continue to climb, studies will help publishers understand which of these cases is actually true. But for now, Malkinson shows his understanding of consumer behavior. "You have to give the consumer what the consumer wants – you can't tell the consumer to go away…if the consumer wants to buy a book in an electronic format now, you should let the consumer have it."

Where does that leave the book manufacturers? As I pointed out in a previous blog post6, the guys looking over their shoulders these days are the traditional long run printers. As e-books gain in popularity and sales, publishers are going to look at digital printing more and more, and for companies like Snowfall Press, this is wonderful news indeed.

What do you believe will happen to printed books?


    Dave Sheets
    Business Development Consultant in Publishing and Printing
    Outlaw Sales Group LLC

Monday, August 02, 2010

You Don't Get Authenticity By Association

I recently wrote a guest blog post for David Sheets. My post is about how you can't be authentic by association. That means that just because you spend time in a community, it doesn't mean you are an authentic part of that group. I specifically speak about this in relationship to engaging people with new ideas. Read on . . .

David runs Outlaw Sales Group and describes his work this way:

Outlaw Sales Group LLC (OSG) was formed to drive start-up ventures and established companies to excel in sales and business development. From consulting on sales plans, to helping set-up sales organizations, OSG brings experience and passion to each client relationship.