A while back we had a jobs summit that produced one good, original idea, a national cycleway from the top of the North to the bottom of the South. Incidentally a great way to lay a national fibre backbone. Since watered down to regional cycle bits of ways that would eventually be connected. Mhmm. Thhpbpbpppttt!
So yesterday they gave it another go, calling together 100 'entrepreneurs' to brainstorm new ideas for lifting the country out of the economic mire. Blue sky thinkers focus minds, spirits in quest for brainwaves.
But in any case, this ain't how it happens. A summit, by definition takes the top people, innovation, by definition, breaks top people. Paradox. What we got was a bunch of oppertunists (that IS what an entrepreneur is yes?) wanting to stay on the bandwagon, and more power to them; but we need to be looking somewhere else.
On top of that the world has changed, the successful people from before 2007 are the very ones who are failing now, some of them spectacularly. To assume they are the people we should be asking for ideas doesn't hold water. And if an angry shouting, sorry, marketing campaign, free air travel for rich people and possum shooting are top of the list, we are sunk.
So what should we be doing? The first thing is to try to tap into the permanent floating innovation pool that is the internet and find ways to attract ideas to our economy.
Here's an idea. A publicly owned, Open, venture capital Kiva, using community funds from the Government. It goes like this
- The tax department sends out a letter to everyone with a tax file number. It includes a password and a URL. Use all three to login to a website for Open Business plans These people are the investors (their taxes will be the seed funds so they get a say) My mate in the UK Ross Gardler has the model and has built the software, we could tweak it a bit. - the link is not direct to his site for reason that will be obvious)
- Anyone from anywhere who thinks they have a good idea can propose it. It can be as complete or as vague as you like. (Johnnie would be in favour of that)
- The posting serves as proof of ownership unless someone can show prior art. Simplified IP as far as we can get.
- Anyone can critique the idea and offer suggestions.
- Anyone can offer resources, additional funding, services, bid for roles in the business etc, attach their CV's
- Any proposer can take the business private at any stage by putting up the money.
- Any tax file holder can vote on whether its a good idea and at the end of the month the government hands over $50k to the top 10.
- The money goes into an account (any bank) and must be managed through an online accounting engine such as Xero to which anyone has read access until either the company goes broke or repays the $50k (which part of OPEN didn't you get?)
- No GST (VAT) on any of the transactions through that account while the balance is below $50k or for the first year, whichever is first.
- Nobody gets more than one chunk of change in any one year unless they repay their original investment - if they flip the company for a profit, good on them, if they make a fortune and want to try again, good on them. Success should not be a barrier.
- All proposers are rated according to the success of their previous ideas on the site. Failure doesn't preclude more funding next year, but it is recorded.
It would cost us $6 million a year to float 120 companies whose ideas, pretty much by definition, would not get funded by anyone else. It woudl also act as an audition service for peopel without to engage with other business people and generate their own businesses.
It really saddens me to see people with 20 and 30 years' experience in business, so-called middle management and higher, complaining because they can't get a job. With all that experience, how come they aren't creating new businesses for themselves? God knows there are plenty of them around. Maybe if we had a marketplace for business ideas, with potential funding attached, in which anyone could play, not just those already successful, some new stuff might happen.
Hell, if these people can do it, why the hell can't we?
Update, here's another reason why senior people are the wrong ones to have leading the process. I comes from the Matthew may document linked from Johnnie's post. One of the thinkign omitations he identifies is Stifling
Root cause? these individuals to a person would not allow their subordinates to have ideas. they had various ways of shooting ideas down. (read a great manifesto here called “100 ways to kill a concept: why Most ideas get shot down”) this group of managers took issue with my report. luckily, an upcoming off-site presented me with the opportunity to prove it to them.
At the off-site, there were about 75 people of varying degrees of seniority, ranging from field
supervisors to senior execs. I gave the assignment, one of those group priority exercises
whereby you rank a list of items individually and then as a group and compare (sort of a “wisdom
of crowds” exercise to show that “we” is smarter than “me”).
This specifc exercise required you to rank 25 items with which you’ve crashed on the moon in relation to how important they were to your survival. NASA had compiled the correct ranking, so there was a clear answer. I did the exercise with a twist. at each table I put a ringer. I gave the lowest-ranking person the answer. it was their job to convince the command-control types they knew the right answer.
During the group exercise, not a single correct answer got heard.
After debriefng the exercise in the regular way, I had each person to whom I had given the correct
answer stand up. I announced that these individuals had offered the right answer, but their ideas
had been stifled, mostly due to their source and stature and seniority, or lack thereof.
That's why. Getting people who have a vested interest in the status quo the right to decide about how much that status quo is disrupted is stupid on its face.