The Enterprise Bootcamp
October 4, 2007
If too much choice leads to unhappiness then does scarcity lead to something more productive? I’m inclined to think it might after the past week or so. Mayo County Enterprise Board asked me to design and deliver a series of day long workshops for 16/17 year old students to encourage them to think of entrepreneurship as a career option after school. 50 students attended each of the four workshops we ran over the past 2 weeks and at the end of each day we had 8 new businesses complete with elevator pitches; unique selling positions and costings.
I designed the sessions to give the students resources including the services of consultants; some brainstorming exercises to get their creative juices flowing; space; time; there was an award for the members of the winning team and a clear task. Then I added some constraints. Consultants could be booked for a limited number of timed sessions. A lovely lunch was provided but we didn’t have an official lunch break. A deadline was imposed for each of the 8 groups to present their pitch to their classmates. The students had to self manage time, resources and constraints.
The workshops were variations on similar bootcamp events I’ve run for business clients and I also structured the days around a set of principles I believe to be true in organisational systems.
• People (particularly teenagers) know much more than we give them credit for
• Real creativity happens when you connect people with their own unique truth and experience
• People are experts about their own experience
• When creativity dries up in the system start looking at who’s managing the process – blocked creativity is rarely located in an individual’s experience it’s always about the message individuals are getting about what constitutes the ‘right’ way of being creative
• Most of what constitutes consulting and facilitating is getting out of the way
• The other bit is learning to listen – which means not thinking about your response to what the person in front of you is saying
• Creativity can only thrive with constraints. Too much of anything is not liberating it’s oppressive
• You can only manage at the boundaries – anything else is police work
The students came up with fantastic ideas, on time, on task and made creative use of all of the resources we put at their disposal. Claire Wilson documented the days and we were joined by a team of five consultants who worked closely with each of the groups.
If I’ve learned anything in the past week it’s that teenagers know more about strategy than any MBA graduate I’ve ever met and trusting them to get on with the task is half of the work involved – let’s not assume that because someone is ‘younger’ (in any sense of the word) that there’s anything they need to learn from us oldies. These young people blew me away with their ingenuity, positiveness and ability to work with what was in front of them. I’m indebted to a wonderful 17 year old young woman (my niece) who has taught me a lot about respecting the wisdom of younger people – she deserves half the credit for the design of the day and I’m proud and honoured to have a wonderful consultant of this calibre. She has two younger sisters and I’m on standby for the life lessons they’ll pass on when the time is right.
Hat tip to Gary for the Merlin Mann post