Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Are You Thinking Like A Social Entrepreneur?

Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer in her often cited study of the attitude of schoolchildren toward people with disabilities provides us with an observation worth pondering.

In one classroom Langer put up a picture of a person in a wheelchair and asked, ‘Can this person drive a car?’ The students answered ‘no’, and backed up their conclusion with a long list of reasons.

In a second classroom Langer asked students, ‘How can this person drive a car?’ The students in this class produced a list of creative ideas on how a disabled person could be helped to drive.

Are you asking yourself ‘Can this be done?’ Or, ‘How can this problem be solved?’ ‘Can death by starvation be stamped out?’ Or, ‘How can the death of children by starvation be brought to an end?’ Is the question, ‘Can I build a value centred support network? Or ‘How can I build the network I need?’

Which list of reasons do you want to own?

Professor J Gregory Dees states, ‘. . . entrepreneurs have an opportunity orientation that leads them to see the possibilities and to think in terms of how they can get something done rather than seeing the problems and thinking of excuses why they can’t.’ Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson adds that entrepreneurs pursue opportunity ‘without regard to the resources currently controlled.’ This is, of course, a most unbureacratic attitude.

Commercial entrepreneurs are often advised to ‘find a need and fill it.’ That is also good advice for social entrepreneurs to heed. Our world has an abundance of social and humanitarian problems in need of a solution, and therein is our opportunity.

As social entrepreneurs we seek compensation not for humanitarian administration (profiting from other people’s problems), but for humanitarian results. If you aren’t getting the results you want, then maybe you should try thinking along the lines described by Professors Dees and Stevenson.
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2 Comments:

Anonymous SansFaim said...

I fear the reason many are not getting the results they want is more to do with waiting for everything to be perfect than wondering which list of reasons they want to own.

We will never have all the resources we need.

It takes a genuine entrepreneur to get things set in forward motion.

Timid entrepreneurs will wait until they have the “perfect” plan.

A "pretty good" plan executed with passion today will always defeat a "perfect" plan tomorrow (primarily because there’s no such thing as a "perfect" plan!).

Don’t be afraid to make some mistakes. They help to work out the bugs

10:19 pm  
Anonymous Chris Jordan said...

Those who are waiting for all the stars to be perfectly aligned are missing the opportunity to do something truly great.

We are all in a position which is enviable.

The situation of the malnourished children of the world has not improved in 50+ years, despite all the astounding efforts of aid agencies, government agencies and the like. All that has occurred has been an exercise in 'treading water'. Progress needs to happen and happen fast.

Business and its motivations of profit and challenge are powerful tools. When hitched to the wagon of drive and determination, these tools can change virtually anything - for good or bad.

When we take stock of things, those of us who have chosen the path of Nourish the Children's initiative from the many that are available to us in the search for true opportunities to improve society's ills, are astoundingly blessed.

There are almost 1 million active NSE distributors. NSE ( Nu Skin Enterprises Inc. - the parent and instigator of NTC ) has put forward a toolset of administrative capabilities, logistics experience and financial 'clout' which offers a chance for those with the vision to see past any 'challenges' with MLM, Direct Sales or 'marketing' which they may encounter, to quickly and efficiently build a network of genuinely concerned human beings and put them to work on a project so focussed and powerful it almost defies belief.

For so long we have puzzled over the best way to help people in countries such as Malawi that it seems we 'look a gift horse in the mouth' when presented with something so simple yet so right.

Please don't waste time examining its teeth! This horse will run!

As Sansfaim says ' A "pretty good" plan executed with passion today will always defeat a "perfect plan" tomorrow'

It really is time to build networks of good people, explain to them what we are about and see whether they wish to assist us in our endeavours.

Those who see what we have ( and vision is not the most common trait!) will run with it today.

Those who don't are likely to join the bandwagon later.

For those who don't see anything of value in what we are achieving every day of every week, then perhaps our work will help to create a society which enables the next generation to be mentally nourished in such a way that they WILL see.

It really is a matter of acting now and building the results to such a degree where they will become self evident to the most skeptical among us.

Skepticism is a healthy state in some respects, provided it is used as a tool of due diligence. Those who arrive skeptically and learn thoroughly will be the most powerful change agents we find.

As Sansfaim intimates, it is critical that we all just get out there and make some mistakes. Only then can we utilise the mistakes and make corrections on our trajectory toward a common goal.

Ours is a goal of such universal appeal to humankind that it should really be a case of 'If you build it - they will come' to quote a rather banal movie I once enjoyed!

12:47 am  

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