First Reactions to the World Foresight Forum. A Note About Empowerment.

I find the idea of “inspirational leadership” vacuous. The excitement of an individual about a topic or an idea, top-down inspiration, is bullshit.

What if I told you that I don’t want someone to tell me what to do or how to think. What if I don’t want someone to precipitate that “inspired”, energized feeling in me. What if I can only feel genuine attachment to any project or idea if I myself came across that moment.

What if I want from my leader is the power to act on ideas I already possess?

Leaders up to now don’t have an incentive to empower. They inspire for a reason. They want to shape their future, their constituents’ future. They don’t often give up that ability to change it.

My peers in the Middle East are fighting and dying for that power. They are making the change they want to see in the world.

In the West, we’re still busy drinking the messianic Kool Aid. We hold out hope for a savior which will not come. It’s here already, inside us all.

I will not go to a square and throw stones. Though, I sympathize with the stone-thrower. Power is a glass house, and its inhabitants are usually naked.

Mine is a fight consisting of speaking truth to power.

There are a number of countervailing forces which hinder, trivialize, or prevent individual or collective success. We are better than that, can to better than this. I hope.

Why Inspirational Speaker-Entrepreneurs Are So Disappointing

An excerpt from my most recent Flyover Geeks post. Read the whole thing here.

What is it that makes a charismatic leader? Is it his or her message, or its delivery? Or is it something else, perhaps the inclination of the audience to believe it? In 1978, 918 people died at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project at the command of cult leader Jim Jones to commit “revolutionary suicide”. It was this incident that gave rise to the expression, “to drink the Kool Aid”.

What makes cult leaders so compelling is not their message per se, but the vulnerability of their audiences. Indeed, Jones’s message was not particularly, how to say it, rational. Right? Far stranger cults, like the Heaven’s Gate cult, which believed that a UFO trailed Comet Hale-Bopp and could be contacted if its members committed suicide. (Strangely, the 39 devotees were found wearing identical shirts, blue and white Nike shoes, and carried a five dollar bill and three quarters.) What’s up with that?

Might the charisma of the cult leader lend credence to his message? Sure. Could a particularly emotionally resonant if fanciful tale compel otherwise normal, if somewhat gullible people to do irrational or even monstrous things? Again yes, especially if their leader is charismatic and all the rest. But if you really want to know what makes the cult leader so convincing, what makes his/her message so wholly true in the eyes of her/his flock, it’s not the message. It’s not the leader, or charisma, or whatever.

[…]

Read the whole thing here.

Seth Godin, Look What You’ve Done

This is an excerpt from a book review I wrote for Flyover Geeks. Read the whole thing here.

Back in 2008, when Seth Godin published his fourteenth book,Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, he was likely correct. The gist of his book, which champions a new media landscape in which change is effected not by huge corporate megaliths, or by the slow plodding progress of governments but by “tribes”. Tribes follow a leader, who articulates some idea to his/her tribe, and empowers the tribe to reify her/his ideology–act on it. Render it concrete.

I picked up Godin’s book because I’ve never read anything about leadership written for the express purpose of inspiring or instructing or empowering would-be leaders. And I realized, after about forty pages, that all of my criticism of inspirational flimflam such as this, yeah, it wasn’t baseless. Sorry, Seth.

[…] Read the whole thing here.

 

On Being an Entrepreneur: A Maker’s Manifesto

Below is an excerpt of an essay I wrote for Flyover Geeks. Read the whole thing here.

As the (very) unofficial higher-education reporter for Flyover Geeks, I’ve said a lot about college, what’s wrong with it, some of its good bits, and how it needs to change. The first piece I published here was about the dangers of corporatism, and the soul-sucking nature of “good jobs” in large companies. As a general rule, a minuscule proportion of complainers ever do something about what bothers them; whether their action is to a stand and fight to change a broken system, or leave such systems entirely, most just don’t. And that, more than anything else, depresses me.

FG Reader, whoever you are, this is not another sardonic article from Jason Rowley. Consider it a mini manifesto. I want you to reclaim yourself.

Doesn’t it seem a little irrational, this subsumption of personal happiness beneath… what, exactly? I challenge you, especially if you work a corporate job (which I’m not denigrating, I just think you could do better), to answer this question: why would you ever, ever do something for any extended period of time if, in the morning, you couldn’t upon waking leap from your bed and say, as Gary Vaynerchuk might suggest and say of each new day that you are going to CRUSH IT!!!! with four exclamation points?

Read the whole thing here.

Winklevoss, v. [trans.]

1) [tech startup-specific] Coerce (someone) with technical expertise in computer science to build the startup idea of a non-technical founder, usually with a minimal ownership stake in the final product. : Tony has a really good idea for a web application, but will have to winklevoss a technical cofounder.

2) [general] Manipulate those with expertise to do the work of non-experts, usually with minimal ownership stake in the final product. : Jason was totally winklevossed into editing his friend’s political science midterm paper.

ORIGIN Derived from Winklevoss, surname of twin brothers Tyler and Cameron, who brought on Mark Zuckerberg to build The Harvard Connection, the alleged progenitor of Facebook.

So I’ve Got This Really Big Idea

I have an idea for a web-based application (with the eventual release of an iPad app as well) which acts as a platform for collaborative note-taking. I’ve already figured out the user interface (though I’m always looking for advice), and most of the front-end functionality and basic frameworks.

I know that a few of my professors read my blog, so this is something of an open letter to them just letting them know that, per the usual, I’ll be wildly underprepared for class tomorrow. I plan to do no reading, writing, etc. Just letting you know.

Scene from the floor of the NYSE

I just got back from the Kairos Society‘s Global Summit in New York City, where for two days three-hundred and fifty highly-accomplished student entrepreneurs from around the world joined a hundred or so entrepreneurs, pioneering scientists, technologists, venture capitalists, and authors at the United Nations and on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to discuss business ideas and our collective vision for the future of our world. Needless to say, it was pretty awesome.

I also received some nifty business cards.

But apart from spending a lot of time talking with executives, marketing rockstars, and preternaturally energetic Silicon Valley man-children, the most valuable thing to come of the experience was the coming-together of an idea I’d been ruminating about for a while. I have an idea for a web-based application (with the eventual release of an iPad app as well) which acts as a platform for collaborative note-taking.

I’m spending the rest of the night spec-ing out the idea. I’ve already figured out the user interface (though I’m always looking for advice), and most of the front-end functionality and basic frameworks. I’m looking for a technical cofounder to help me build it out. Furthermore, I’m looking for some design and branding consultation–ideally pro bono–as well as advisors to assist me in navigating the apparently dangerous and turbid waters that is the seed-capital marketplace. I’d also like some advice about whether I should consider applying to an incubator program.

Specifics will not be discussed here on The Halcyon Days until either a beta is ready for market or I file a patent on the process (if such a patent filing is possible). If people are interested in giving advice, feel free to contact me using HD’s contact form.

The Echo Chamber

Inside the echo chamber.

Shouting match with the walls.

Friends, a blithe coterie

singing merrily inward.

To and from each other.

To no other but themselves.

 

Go forth they say:

Collaborate. Create. Succeed.

Make Possible. Live Expansively.

Fund and Incorporate. Drive and

Innovate. Rise above.

Embrace uncertainty.

Seize. Attack ferociously.

Make it bleed. Sustain. Run lean.

Continue reading “The Echo Chamber”

IncubatorU

Now, I’m sure hordes of grumpy old men in tweed jackets collectively carp about the increasing focus on commerce in the classroom, about the decay of classic liberal arts dogma about Truth and Beauty, and all that jazz. What I say to that: grow up. Fact: for as long as a college degree is a prerequisite to entering into the workforce, the two will be linked. Instead of bemoaning the fall of “classic intellectual pursuit” (whatever…) I propose a more pragmatic approach. If you can’t beat the entrepreneurial spirit out of your students, foster it. Make the university a resource for more than just abstruse theory, a repository of dusty grey scholars of neo-Marxist hermeneutics or post-structuralist creative heuristics, or whatever else scholarly work consists of. Leverage the enthusiasm of students to, if nothing else, augment existing endowment funds.

This is my latest post for Flyover Geeks. It’s about the rise of business incubators within universities. Find the whole article here.

Now, I’m sure hordes of grumpy old men in tweed jackets collectively carp about the increasing focus on commerce in the classroom, about the decay of classic liberal arts dogma about Truth and Beauty, and all that jazz. What I say to that: grow up. Fact: for as long as a college degree is a prerequisite to entering into the workforce, the two will be linked. Instead of bemoaning the fall of “classic intellectual pursuit” (whatever…) I propose a more pragmatic approach. If you can’t beat the entrepreneurial spirit out of your students, foster it. Make the university a resource for more than just abstruse theory, a repository of dusty grey scholars of neo-Marxist hermeneutics or post-structuralist creative heuristics, or whatever else scholarly work consists of. Leverage the enthusiasm of students to, if nothing else, augment existing endowment funds.

On Redefining Intellectual Entrepreneurship

The intellectual entrepreneur is one who develops, researches, discovers, or learns in order to fulfill objectives beyond the attainment of credentials, approval of peers, or furthering of career goals in a manner or process primarily outside the bounds of extant educational institutions, systems, and pedagogies.

Based on my current, independent study in entrepreneurship theory and practice, I’ve taken issue with the lack of a formal definition of what, exactly, an entrepreneur is. Is “the function of entrepreneurs is to reform or revolutionize the pattern of production,” as Joseph Shumpeter suggested in 1942? Perhaps we should shift our locus of attention from individual “entrepreneurs” to the entrepreneurial process, thus conceptualizing and defining entrepreneurship as a successful act of organizational founding. (see Carroll and Khessina 2005) Perhaps we should do as eighteenth century economists Richard Cantillon and Jean-Baptiste Say did and emphasize the literal translation of entrepreneur as those who “undertake” risks in starting a business or enterprise.

There are dozens of other possible, applicable definitions of what entrepreneurs do, how they do it, and the results of their doings. So, in the spirit of clarifying increasingly varied definitions of entrepreneurship qua entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship as modified by a preceding adjective (i.e. Social Entrepreneurship or Serial Entrepreneurship) I propose a new, radical redefinition of what’s currently come to be known as “Intellectual” or “Academic Entrepreneurship”.

Continue reading “On Redefining Intellectual Entrepreneurship”

Why Young Geeks Leave School

For this series, I’ve Skyped gawky, venture-capitalized college kids who’re still grappling with acne. It seems as though tech entrepreneurs are getting younger.

Click Here to read my new article in Flyover Geeks. Here’s a sneak preview:

For this series, I’ve Skyped gawky, venture-capitalized college kids who’re still grappling with acne. It seems as though tech entrepreneurs are getting younger. What explains this trend toward younger people entering the tech-entrepreneurial space, even while still in college? This necessarily leads to a second question: why is it that nearly all of these successful college-aged entrepreneurs ended up dropping out of college to start their ventures?