Week 1 – Return of the Talking Heads

Week 1 – Return of the Talking Heads

It felt a bit nostalgic seeing Tom and Kris…and they haven’t aged a bit.

The main takeaway seems to be that there is no one way to do things. Aside from legal structuring and taxes, there are perhaps limitless way of starting a business being entrepreneurial. Some of them tell you that you have to learn to compromise, Sarah Boris is adamant about not compromising, and they are no doubt both correct.

So the main takeaway from Simon Manchipp is no clients, no business, which as obviously as it is, I still think is too generalising; of course, I understand what he means, but there are even exceptions to this. And not all entrepreneurship has to be for profit, though there should be cashflow obviously. I did like his description of Disney’s ‘Plussing it’

RP’s thoughts on a ‘well-curated’ Instagram being as useful as a website made sense to me, I hardly ever update my website, and very few people ever look at it, whereas a thoughtfully maintained Instagram can actually be of more use.

John Maeda is always a good listen, but even then the TEDtalkification always leads to generalist terms on what art and design is; it is fine that those are his opinions and definitions of them, but these are somewhat open to interpretation. I did really like his thoughts on empathy and diversity and integration. I have heard of Chris Do and I still quote or paraphrase him when it comes to hourly billing, but his approach, while interesting, describes what works for him.

I want to be clear, it is not that I don’t think that there are some aspects of business that apply to every incarnation, I am not naïve (I don’t think) and believe that ever approach has a chance of success, it’s just that…it all seems a bit cult-ish. All these different denominations of business success, be it Chris Do, Gary Vaynerchuk, or even Tony Robbins. If there were one way, it would be easy, which would make it hard again. I myself follow the Gospel of Heinrich Böll

It seems to me that when talking about or teaching entrepreneurship, there are basically two ways

1. the formulaic approach, TAM, SAM, SOM, Business Model Canvas, COGS Spreadsheets, key assumptions, marketing, finance, accounting, etc. The second approach is a case-study version with perhaps a slight survivorship bias. Apple would not be what it is had Steve Jobs not dropped out of Reed College and taken a calligraphy course while couch surfing in Oregon, but repeating this will also not lead to the second version of Apple. Understanding your market and your audience is no doubt important, but the famous, albeit maybe apocryphal (and apparently misunderstood) quote by Henry Ford, and I don’t remember anyone complaining about there mobile phone not showing them a constant stream of people’s food and/or genitalia. Or you get the top-ten things vastly successful people do clickbait like this. And it bears mentioning that most of these approaches measure success in money or fame. (None of which, to my knowledge, mention getting an MA or writing a blog – just sayin’)

I am keen to avoid speculating about the future, but when talking about entrepreneurship, we can almost only speak of the past, and successful start-ups that have become End-ups as John Maeda calls them are almost by definition of a different time, much like the nostalgic reminiscing of uncles at a party they don’t want to be at, darkrooms and bus-shelters, Jumpers for goalpost. What they mean perhaps is, things change, adapt, be flexible and be willing to suffer.

The point is that what really makes the rich countries rich is their ability to channel the individual entrepreneurial energy into collective entrepreneurship….our view of
entrepreneurship is too much tinged by the individualistic perspective – entrepreneurship is what those heroic individuals with exceptional vision and determination do. By extension, we believe that any individual, if they try hard enough, can become successful in business. However, if it ever was true, this individualistic view of entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly obsolete. In the course of capitalist development, entrepreneurship has become an increasingly collective endeavour.
…. If effective entrepreneurship ever was a purely individual thing, it has stopped being so at least for the last century. The collective ability to build and manage effective organizations and institutions is now far more important than the drives or even the talents of a nation’s individual members in determining its prosperity. Unless we reject the myth of heroic individual entrepreneurs and help them build institutions and organizations of collective entrepreneurship, we will never see the poor countries grow out of poverty on a sustainable basis.’ [1]

Added to that is the propaganda that capitalism and competition drive invention and innovation when in fact the major breakthroughs have frequently come from publicly funded institutions. As Steven Johnson says, ‘…we have deliberately built inefficient markets: environments that protect copyrights and patents and trade secrets and a thousand other barricades we’ve erected to keep promising ideas out of the minds of others. That deliberate inefficiency doesn’t exist in the fourth quadrant. No, these non-market, decentralized environments do not have immense paydays to motivate their participants. But their openness creates other, powerful opportunities for good ideas to flourish.‘[2]

When it comes to entrepreneurship, I am more inspired by and interested in, the organic development, the entrepreneurship of Ani DiFranco, or Shepard Fairey, not Snapchat, or anyone else chasing a payday on Wall Street. The undertaking, which is what entrepreneurship literally means, should have some ethical or moral caveats. It matters to me the intention, not the money or fame – sorry, I mean success

All of which and more means that I would want to focus on a space that investigates, promotes, celebrates the exploration of the liminal space between art and design. And I would want it to be a physical space. From an MVP and overhead standpoint it seems like more of a convenience than a necessity, but there is power in a (shared) space. I would want it to be a collective endeavour, both internally – multiple participants using the space, as well as externally, working with outside partners in some form, in partnership with, in collaboration, in service of…

Equal parts gallery, design studio, and experimental laboratory, we create work that sits within the space between art and design – or outside of both.

Our focus stems from a shared belief that sincere and genuine processes, free of commercial and client pressures, lead to creations and outputs that are authentic and inherently of value.

We consist of a loose affiliation of members whose own individual identities, cultures, and beliefs create our culture – we are a culture, not a cult, but we share values, morals, and ethics. We like windmills, but we tilt at giants.

1 Chang, H. (2011). Twenty-three things they don’t tell you about capitalism. 1st ed. New York: Bloomsbury, pp.165-167.

2 Johnson, S. (2010). Where good ideas come from. 1st ed. New York: Penguin Group, p.232.

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