Babson Entrepreneur Experience Lab

Elements of the Entrepreneur Experience

Uncertainty

Try. Learn. Build. Adapt.

Entrepreneurs inside have embraced experimentation. Many of the organizations they work in have not. It’s not surprising; experimentation can be tough to operationalize or support. As one EI put it, “I try to remind myself that they don't see what they're doing as killing innovation, they see it as making sure everyone's following the rules so we have some standard operating procedures and things don't devolve into chaos.” Entrepreneurs inside know that pushing past what you know, or creating new ways of thinking cannot happen without experimentation—you have to act your way into knowing. Capturing what’s learned from each attempt is key to “knowing what not to do next time around or discovering another way down the road.” Experimentation strengthens an organization’s success and failure responses, critical to adaptation and growth.

Opportunities

  1. How can we develop programs that allow EI to experiment inside organizations?

  2. How can we shift the mindset of individuals and the organizations for whom they work from failure to intentional iteration and experimentation?

  3. How can we increase the pace at which opportunities can be implemented inside organizations?

Overcoming Self-Doubt

Overcoming Self-Doubt

Jeff

Jeff describes his process of overcoming uncertainty.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnMQA.html

Jessica

Jessica describes negotiating with herself.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv3GQA.html

Perhaps the first hurdle for EIs to overcome when attempting to create something new is their own self-doubt. Living in a state of being where you have to constantly prove yourself, and defend your ideas can play havoc with your confidence level. David, describes a heightened level of self-awareness and “stick-to-itness” necessary to develop the confidence to overcome worries that one’s focused on a bad idea, trying something that already failed before or duplicating another effort. Rob relies on a strong belief in himself and his ideas as the foundation for sorting out dissenting opinions. “Sometimes they’ll be right and sometimes they’ll be wrong. One of the tricks is figuring out which is which—and in that space is where most of the {EI}learning lives.” Testing one’s assumptions can be extremely difficult when in a state of self-doubt resulting in decision-paralysis and/or an inability to act.

Having ready support at hand can be critical for continuing on. Feeling loss of momentum, gaps of expertise, the need to take a fresh look at the problem, the need for confirmation that you’re on the right path, or lack of experience can all trigger a need to seek out advice. If the support is not available, many entrepreneurs inside manage without it, but not without lingering doubts and sometimes resentment. As Ed, a coalition director says, “...it would be advantageous to be relentless, and have a short memory with respect to disappointment and missed opportunities. Reflect, and just keep striving forward, as hard as that may be. I struggle with it sometimes.”

Cultivating Creative Conflict

Cultivating Creative Conflict

Jeff

Jeff describes the transition of mindset within the church, and how it has lead him to become more inclusive of new ideas.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnNAA.html

Danielle

Danielle discusses being prepared for pushback on ideas.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvvnZQA.html

Jessica

Jessica talks about navigating ideas from other people.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv2YgA.html

In the Social Capital experience element, we note skills entrepreneurs need to develop in order to sort through different types of opposition—that which is simply resistance to change versus opposition that helps to hone ideas and shape opportunities. Monika, a teacher on special assignment building a school district innovation lab, realized that, “We’ve learned to view critique as the end. Instead, we could be viewing critiquing as a narrowing down, of making us better—what we failed at is now focused in on. That’s great news. I thought I knew nothing, [but] now I see I’m only missing this much.” Christine, a VP at a global research firm, seeks out collaborators who can think critically and help her shape her ideas, “...finding people who can both love your idea but will also tell you all the ways it’s a mess AND what to do to fix it are a real gift. I have people like that at work who are close friends and hugely valuable collaborators.”

I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that will not work.(9)

I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that will not work.(9)

Pam

Pam talks about failure and success.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyOZgA.html

Jessica

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvv2ZwA.html

Success can and should be shared and celebrated. Failure is something to safeguard against and if it occurs, kept quiet. But, entrepreneurs inside, don’t see success and failure in such absolute terms—they see failure and success as opportunities for learning and growth, and for sharpening one’s ability to recover quickly and to adapt. Peter’s personal view of failure is “not achieving an attempted goal,” but he takes the lessons learned from a failed pursuit and looks for another chance to try or develops a new goal based on what he’s learned. In the process, he’s found a way to navigate organizational constructs that hinder experimentation. “Too often in business today, organizations, particularly in government, have become very risk adverse and view failure as a career death sentence. They develop extensive policies, reviews, and take conservative strategies to develop a new product or implement a new initiative.  This crushes innovation and increases the risk considerably for any effort.  The smaller you can structure the effort, the quicker you can accomplish the win, but if it fails, it is a small failure and ideally a learning opportunity in the broader effort.”  Melissa, a cooperative worker-owner, sees failure as a core catalyst to help organizations become “robust.”  “My brother is a biomimetic roboticist—he studies and compares natural and engineered systems. And something he said about the robustness of systems once has really stuck with me: the most robust systems are not the best engineered ones, they're the ones that recover best from failure. And that's why nature is more awesome than robots. I think about this all the time. Failure is built into existence. It's all in how you adjust to it and recover from it, what you learn, how you change.” Scott, a VP in the wellness space, looks at milking success as a debilitating habit and works to develop his capability to keep applying what’s learned.  “You’re constantly thinking, okay great, this worked really well, but what’s the next thing?  How do we make it better because I’ve seen this I don’t know how many times, where you do your thing, it works really well, you’re very proud of it, you love it to death and then suddenly it’s becoming irrelevant... and before you know it, somebody (there are lot of smart people out there), they’re doing it differently and better.”

(9) Thomas Edison

It takes time and patience

It takes time and patience

Danielle

Danielle talks about her team helping her realize when the timing is right.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvzPcwA.html

Jonah

Jonah discusses being patient with executing ideas.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyOQgA.html

Jessica

Jess talks about knowing when it's time to do something.

http://blip.tv/play/h7YEgvyPOQA.html

Timing is everything when implementing change within an organization or community. First, it simply takes longer to translate ideas especially where there are layers of people involved in the process. It’s also important to know when to push forward and when to step back and wait for conditions to be more advantageous. Learning how recognize when the timing isn’t right allows entrepreneurs inside to keep important ideas from getting killed before gathering the right support. Christine, a VP of global research, has put ideas on “the back burner” for long periods of time to wait until the timing seemed more favorable. “One idea I'm working on now is something that a colleague proposed in 2009. It's been off and on for a long time, but the idea is too important to drop. And now we're getting some critical mass of support from outside of our team and it's about making sure we don't lose momentum.”

As with anything new, if it’s too unfamiliar to people or they’re not brought along during the process, it may make it through implementation, but fail miserably. Pam, an executive director of a community development organization, recalls walking with “heavy footsteps” past a modern home her organization helped to build which the community neighborhood outright rejected. While Pam knows this is eventually the direction that housing in this community should take, she accepts that the community was not ready to begin adoption.