“A day without intention is a day wasted,” Richard Branson, business magnate, investor, and philanthropist wrote in a recent blog post. “Without intention, there can be no productivity, and in turn no success.”
So you’ve already established that your picture of success is unique and may look different than that of your peers. And you’ve envisioned the path to entrepreneurship as your own; one you’re enthusiastic to begin. That brings you to a critical question, have you formed your idea? Has the spark ignited a concept in your mind? Is it burning passionately, consuming your every thought, or have you yet to conceive it?
For some, the idea¾the concept of a new product or service may have come first, followed by the logical conclusion that being an entrepreneur would be the way to enact and develop the idea into a real business.
For others, the idea is simply to become an entrepreneur, leaving the challenge of giving birth to a marketable concept as the second step. Perhaps starting a business is appealing, but the baby idea hasn’t been born yet, and going back to Branson, the guy who founded Virgin Records that became Virgin Group, which controls a mere 400 companies; this is going to require intention.
Being intentional about giving birth to a brilliant or even viable idea sounds contrived. It sounds illogical, like, “Okay, I’ll just go pour myself some coffee, sit down at the kitchen table, and dream up a fantastic and beneficial business idea.”
How do you approach the inception of an idea?
If you are to birth a viable startup concept, where and how does the impregnation occur? Much like conventional human impregnation, although maybe not as enjoyable, there will need to be a union. It’s not necessarily a union of two individuals, although it could be that, but a union of experiences, expertise, or a crossing of paths.
There may come a juncture in your life where one road meets a second. This type of crossroads can be merely a coming-together of your unique perceptions with a happenstance meeting or observation. Now this is where the intention comes in. Be intended in creating or allowing opportunities for these things to happen. Be open-minded to the degree that the idea can seep in, and that you’ll take notice when you encounter it. Be observant to individuals around you who can enrich your thinking with their insights. Make your daily, weekly, and monthly scenarios ripe for inspiration.
A Creatively Ripe Scenario
How do I get myself one of these?
Although your ongoing daily life may be filled with creatively-ripe scenarios, there’s a sure way to shake up your creative juices. Change your dynamic, and there will be an outcome of some kind. Place a few key ingredients into a shaker and give it a few hard shakes; there is certain to be a result. Idea generation is ongoing, but if you want a different outcome then build a different set of circumstances around you, and the result will be different. Simple, right?
Disrupting your status quo requires attention paid to (5) key ingredients:
Your surroundings can play a huge role in impacting your way of thinking. Daily, the landscape in which you interact can broaden your horizons or limit them. Intentional decisions about where you are spending time in your day, week, and year; these can be the factors that cause you to reflect back later with the wisdom of hindsight, and say, “If I hadn’t been there at that exact moment, I would never have met, discovered, known, observed…” (you fill in the blank)
Your collection of life experiences is what forms your perception of the world and your place in it. This being the case, doesn’t it make sense to accumulate and cultivate your experiences with intention and care?
Make it a conscious decision to place yourself in situations where it’s possible to have the experiences that will help you to learn, grow, and develop as an individual. Be in the world and not just on your couch, because the world is the ultimate experiential learning opportunity!
Travel down the street, across state lines, and to another continent; explore, embark on an adventure! Traveling changes your environment and gives you an overall experience that cannot be replicated by staying at home. Seeing other parts of your state, country, and the world will surely bring about a new frame-of-mind as a minimum impact, and even greater than that, it could prompt something monumental in altering your life’s course.
Many an entrepreneur has attributed their revelation or lightbulb moment to travel experiences. Jay Meistrich, co-founder and CEO of Moo.do, described as “the task manager for everything,” took this key ingredient to the maximum when he embarked on an adventure where travel, work, and living became one intertwined lifestyle path forged through forty-five cities in twenty countries; all the while working long days to launch his startup. His was a nomadic existence, living out of a 40-liter backpack, which for him, was the right approach to creativity, invention, and life in general.
Exposure to ideas can and will occur as part of the prior two points, with environment and experiences providing the backdrop for exposure to fresh thinking, inspiration, and emotional impactors. Exposure can also occur organically as part of your upbringing. Whether it stems from your parents, relatives, friends, mentors or teachers, the influences can come from any direction. And sometimes it’s a crossroads of influences that happens to occur at a point in your development as a young human being, which causes the thing to be more poignant or more deeply felt. Were the cross roads to have occurred at a different stage in life, the outcome might not be the same. These are the unplanned components that can be life-changing.
Knowledge and understanding is available to you in many ways. There is formal teaching from which you can learn, and there is informal learning that occurs organically, if you’re open to it, and there is learning that comes from exchanges.
Exchanging information, ideas, and thoughts can be the most impactful way of acquiring knowledge. Expanding your knowledge through the process of dialogue is hugely powerful because of the human element, but you must be emotionally-open for there to be a successful outcome. There needs to be a willingness to be vulnerable, to listen, and to respond with honesty. Sincerity in your intentions to learn allows your dialogue partner or counterparts to respond in-kind with vulnerability and sharing. Generosity is a required trait in this process. Each party sharing, reciprocally; this creates the weather conditions for a perfect storm¾the perfect brainstorm!
The trait that sets apart the social entrepreneur from the economic entrepreneur is empathy. There are other differences in the individuals that set-out on one of these paths versus the other, but at the core of the decision to be the Social Entrepreneur is empathy. Simply put, empathy is the quality that allows you to envision yourself in another person’s shoes and circumstances, and feel bad about it. It’s not to say that the economic entrepreneur doesn’t have it, but there are degrees of empathy that cause the actions to be greater or lesser. A child with empathy may invite the new kid to sit with him/her during lunch. An individual with empathy may dedicate his/her free time to volunteer efforts in their community. Another individual may dedicate their full-time pursuit to working for a charitable organization. The caring is driven by empathy and compassion, and this becomes the catalyst for a social entrepreneur or aspiring one to want to take action, possibly even making sacrifices during initial stages.
What you’ve already discovered by now, in reading through these (5) key ingredients, is that they overlap, and one could go by the name of another, and several could be lumped together under the same title. They are integrally and solidly connected, but also separate and distinct. These basic ingredients interact and intertwine with one another, creating the massive web of a filter, through which you view the world and yourself. This perception web is the driver behind your decisions, your intentions, and your actions.
And just in case you’re still not sure if you possess the right qualities, or fit the description of someone who would embark on this path…according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, here is the definition, or distinctive traits that set apart the social entrepreneur.
From the Stanford Social Innovation Review:
“The entrepreneur is attracted to this suboptimal equilibrium, seeing embedded in it an opportunity to provide a new solution, product, service, or process. The reason that the entrepreneur sees this condition as an opportunity to create something new, while so many others see it as an inconvenience to be tolerated, stems from the unique set of personal characteristics he or she brings to the situation – inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage, and fortitude.”
“We define social entrepreneurship as having the following three components: (1) identifying a stable but inherently unjust equilibrium that causes the exclusion, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity that lacks the financial means or political clout to achieve any transformative benefit on its own; (2) identifying an opportunity in this unjust equilibrium, developing a social value proposition, and bringing to bear inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage, and fortitude, thereby challenging the stable state’s hegemony; and (3) forging a new, stable equilibrium that releases trapped potential or alleviates the suffering of the targeted group, and through imitation and the creation of a stable ecosystem around the new equilibrium ensuring a better future for the targeted group and even society at large.”