Embrace the initiative

I am not very good at not being intrigued and fascinated by the world, and by the combined forces of stubbornness and serendipity, I repeatedly find myself falling in love with new topics in whole new areas. Though this has some implications for my spare time, I generally consider it a privilege to be able to live and work along such a rather exploratory pattern.

My infatuation with entrepreneurship is one such area.

I am not, however, primarily interested in the business- or commercial side of things. This is not to say that I ignore financial realities or neglect the notion of actually making money; I don’t and I do acknowledge the importance of that dimension.

Despite this, what really pulls me in is the creativity, the ideas, the drive, the initiative, the desire to change the world (however small the change may be).

I am clearly not alone when I maintain, that the world is desperately in need of more people with the will and ability to make changes. In society as a whole, we put great emphasis on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship as the primary future sources of wealth. We shall not make a profit on producing cars, but on developing ideas, concepts, new services and solutions.

We are not quite there yet, though, and too much education remains focused on maintaining status quo, doing as we’re used to, rather than on promoting change.

Point to problem or deliver solution?

Most people don’t believe they are capable of initiative.

Most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it.

Seth GodinAs written by die-hard proponent of entrepreneurship, Seth Godin, the fact is that all too many people doubt their own ability to perform change.

Change begins with the initiative. Someone must be the instigator, the agent of change, taking the initiative and making things happen.

But where does initiative come from? And is it possible to “teach” people to show more initiative?

First, you need to pinpoint something in need of change, an area where you could see something better happen. I would argue that quite a large number of people are actually able to identify such areas.

Next step would be to figure out how such change could take place. You need imagination, the ability to not do as you’ve been told, to provide alternative solutions. This is harder, and fewer people are probably good at this.

Finally comes execution. If pointing out problems is easy and thinking up solutions is somewhat harder, actually making the change, the push, is what eventually puts many people off. Perhaps they don’t really believe in their idea, or they doubt they have the capacity to carry it out.

Chances are, that people, more than anything else, are intimidated by the fear of failing.

Embrace failure

Before embracing the initiative, we must thus embrace failure.

I think there’s been a widespread and very unfortunate tendency to paint and maintain a very bleak, almost dystopian picture of the ramifications of failure. In education, our incessant obsession with testing, measuring and grading is not exactly working against the fear of failure. On the contrary, when every single student is met with high expectations to do well in tests, the will to experiment and quite possibly fail is probably reduced, if not eliminated altogether.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work – Thomas Alva EdisonThomas_Edison2

At the same time, though, history is filled to the brim with examples reinforcing the basic idea that behind every breakthrough is a series of failures.

Failing can be hard, of course, but rarely fatal. Much more often failure is instructive, a necessary part of the process, which eventually leads to non-failures. Success, if you like.

We desperately need to reinterpret “failure” and readjust the ways in which we frame it. Perhaps we should not even talk about failure, but just consider it one possible outcome, which can be improved.

Odd as it may sound, we need to encourage kids to fail, not least in education. As educators, we must take on the responsibility to challenge norms, conventions and ways of thinking. We must act and think differently, and we must allow kids to do the same, regardless of the fact, that they may fail (often).

Just do it…now!

nike-just-do-itNike was and is right. We should just do it.

Go, start something.

Currently, my favorite example is the enthusiastic and hard working guys over at ClearCut Games.

They’re at GameIT College, yet (luckily) their ambitions reach further than “just” being a student of games. Much further.

ClearCut Games

They want to become real game developers, obviously, so they began developing Cado, which is scheduled for release on iOS this summer (as any game developer knows, this is prone to change). They’re in a safe zone right now, as they’re attending school, and developing games in their spare time (that’s the official story, at least). From my perspective, using this safety to experiment with the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship is just brilliant.

They’re great guys, great company, great inspiration. They are, however, not very representative. We need more like them, more people performing a leap of faith, plunging into what is not yet known.

My point is not that we need everybody to develop games and start all kinds of game companies (despite the importance of games).

What we do need, however, is the courage, the passion, the desire. We definitely need more people founding companies based on great ideas, but we also need people instigating change within existing companies and organisations. None of us should shy away from pursuing better solutions, challenging traditions and the structures we navigate within. Most importantly, we should not be afraid of failing.

…and heck, if such an approach allows you to follow your dreams in the process, wouldn’t that be worth something?