A guest blog with Faisal Hoque, founder of Shadoka and several other companies. Originally published at Fast Company.
Like it or not the modern world forces us to constantly reinvent ourselves. And the reinvention process requires an entrepreneurial mindset.
Somewhere along the way, people became convinced that stasis is safer than movement. Consistency feels comfortable; volatility is frightening. Consciously or not, we attempt to protect ourselves against life’s volatility by cultivating routine in our lives.
But, in this ever-changing world, we are constantly forced to reinvent ourselves.
And this reinvention process by very nature requires an entrepreneurial mindset.
In many ways, entrepreneurship is about where we place the responsibility for our experience. Although it’s hubris to think that you have complete control of your experience, it’s martyrdom to think that you have none. An entrepreneur is someone deeply engaged in his or her experience of life and willing to do the daily work of transforming it.
The entrepreneur is idealist and pragmatic, sensitive to the world she wishes to see, and conscious of the world as it is. The entrepreneur’s work, then, lies in connecting the two.
Constant reinvention requires:
1. Driving long-term vision
2. Creating platforms for growth
3. Fostering synergistic ecosystems
A sense of purpose takes vision
Vision is what we’re to do with the time that we have. If you look at the central business theses of a few leading companies, we can see that they prioritize not only revenue–though surely that’s essential–but also the purpose of the work that they do. And that purpose is critical to staying a long-term course.
Time is the most scarce resource. When we realize not as an intellectual construct but as an emotional conviction that our time here is finite, we will act purposefully.
Finding the Platforms That Are Already There
If vision is an expression of the soul of a person, platform is its body. We often call these “core competencies,” which tend to grow organically. Whether an organization (or an individual) recognizes it in themselves, these competencies are platforms, or assets with business applications.
Platform generation is taking assets that have already been created and finding new ways to use them.
But they can also be tangible things–automobile companies will use the same engine in a range of cars, and, at times, provide engines for other manufacturers, bringing in more capital from a preexisting product. Similarly, if we are going to sustainably grow our organizations, we must reach limbs out into new markets.
In understanding platforms, we appreciate the wealth of possible intersections between our organizations, the world and ourselves.
Fostering Sustainable Ecosystems
James F. Moore was the first to apply the term ecosystem to a business context. He wrote that a business ecosystem was “an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals.” These ecosystems, he wrote, encourage companies to coevolve their capabilities. This comes in several flavors.
Sometimes an ecosystem can sprout up around a product, like the range of cases, headphones and other paraphernalia that surround the mobile devices. As well, a company can sprout whole economic worlds, as was the case of the App Store–and in that case, the App Store itself was a new platform for Apple. Amazon also sprouted ecosystems from new business platforms: Marketplace, from which third party vendors–who in an earlier age would be considered competitors–can offer their wares on Amazon, creating an ecosystem in and of itself.
In a very similar sense, ecosystem thinking has become a cornerstone of web publishing–the broad swathe of unpaid contributors creating content for the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and other publishing platforms do so in exchange for growing their own individual readership and brand.
Why are ecosystems–and understanding them–crucial to sustainable value creation?
They are the structure that surrounds and supports our businesses. They spread stakeholdership out from the business and into society.
Taken together, constant reinvention process is a combination of inner and outer awareness. We need to know what our timescale is for what we’re doing; we need to know how the competencies we’ve built can extend in new directions; and we need to attend to how our business fits into the larger world. When we do all three, we can be confident, committed and flexible in the value that we create repeatedly.
You can learn more from Faisal Hoque about entrepreneurship at his course How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset.