Eight Tenets for Creating Value through Enterprise
It's an edge that many have battled with. Over the last century, private enterprise has created value for society in immeasurable ways. But there's no arguing that an over-emphasis on the bottom line can lead to externalities that end up damaging eco-systems. How does one balance basic human values with the tools that enterprise brings us? Ragunath, shares 'Eight Tenets' that can help us ask check the efficacy of our decisions.
Eight Tenets for Creating Value through Enterprise
Beginning with Empathy, Not Idea
Truly beneficial initiatives begin with empathy from within towards a person or a situation. Whereas, ideas triggered by different external stimuli (like a news item, market research, random conversation, greed etc) often miss the forest for the trees. Or, miss the customer for the sale. In fact, one can begin only with deep empathy and no idea and pick up the right idea along the way because empathy gives purpose whereas an idea creates mere excitement. An idea conceived from empathy is a great start.
Touch Start, Not Kick Start
Conceived with empathy, any offering (a product, service or even an act of kindness) calls for a gentle Touch Start and not an aggressive Kick Start. Often entrepreneurs brimming with a lot of energy make decisions and take actions in the spirit of “giving it all” which is like attempting to start driving in the fourth gear. This aggressiveness sacrifices direction for pace. Whereas, Touch Start allows for deep observations and early course corrections.
Offering with Humility, not Ambition
A new product/service is like a wingless, newly hatched bird. Offered with humility, without great expectations, it can gradually grow its wings. Offered with ambition, it will be blown around and tossed away by strong, chaotic winds. In practical terms, humility means starting small, being fully open for criticisms, asking for help and feedback, testing assumptions and sharing responsibilities and credits.
Growing through Evolution, not Valuation
Evolution is a process of internal adaptation to external feedback which results in development of new capacities. This is natural, overall and robust growth. Whereas, growth that is driven by calculation of various numbers (number of customers, volume of sales, profits etc) forces a one-dimensional focus on Valuation and enslaves all work to quarterly numbers. A large pot belly is not a sign of growth but a symptom of disease.
Scaling through spontaneous Fusion, not intentional Fission
In physics, “Nuclear Fusion and Nuclear Fission are two different types of energy-releasing reactions in which energy is released from high-powered atomic bonds between the particles within the nucleus. The main difference between these two processes is that fission is the splitting of an atom into two or more smaller ones while fusion is the fusing of two or more smaller atoms into a larger one. Here is a list of key differences between the two that has jaw-dropping similarities with Startups with and without the right ethos.
Metaphorically, a startup with the right ethos might spontaneously scale through Fusion – a synergistic reaction due to the coming together of the right people, effort, resources and situations which results in the whole being larger than the sum of the parts. Whereas, intentionally attempting to scale a startup is like fission – an unnatural process that pressures and splits every whole element into weaker, struggling pairs – work is split into time versus task list, team is split into individual and collective achievement, product/service is split into quality and quantity, values are split into philosophical and practical and so on.
Launching Experiments, not Organizations
One of the early distractions that take an entrepreneur away from the essential is mistaking a Startup for an organization. A Startup, in the beginning, is only an experiment and all effort must focus on the right value that needs to be created. Whereas, many entrepreneurs get caught up in tasks associated with forming an organization – incorporation, hiring a comprehensive team, valuation, allocating shares, raising funds, renting office space, creating website, printing brochures and visiting cards etc. None of these tasks are needed to create and test a product or a service. All one person (or two and probably not more than three people) must do launch a Startup is identify a need through empathy and start to experiment with a product or a service in a small way with existing resources. If things goes well, there will come a time when multiple tasks that have emerged out of the organic growth of the experiment will demand their organizing in a formal way. It is then it makes sense to form and behave like an organization. Until then, just buddies hacking on weekends will do.
Labour of Love, not Greed or Fear
If one’s offering is a labour of love, it naturally draws out one’s virtues. If it is a labour of greed or fear, it naturally draws out one’s vices. Love gives joy when things go well and strength during challenging times. Greed blinds one during success and fear freezes one during challenges.
Love of Labour, not Results
The motive to work is to derive the joy of the work which keeps one’s focus and energy on the work which only love for the labour itself can provide. A love for results splits one’s view with one eye on the task and one on the goal thereby dividing one’s focus and energy.
Ragunath Padmanabhan was an entrepreneur based out of the Silicon Valley until her decided to move to a village in Tamil Nadu with his wife and son Aum. For several years now, their experiments in organic farming and healthy living have brought them in a deeper alignment with nature. They share some of their wisdom by hosting people in their home on the farm, as well as through their portal 'Green Local'. For the Startup Weekend that is to be held in November 2014 in Mumbai, Ragu put together this document to help set the field for viewing Entrepreneurship with the lens of value creation. You can read more about the gathering on the website.