The editors at Business Week are a demanding lot. They got a copy of my new book, Entrepreneurship for the Rest of Us, and said, "boil it down for us."
We live in a world where no matter what we do for a living or where we work--whether we just starting off on our own or are employed by a global giant--we need to innovate and create opportunity faster than ever before.
With that as my starting point, I wondered who was the best at doing both things, and the answer is simple: Serial entrepreneurs, people who have started two or more companies. There is nothing that requires great innovation skills more than starting a company, and these people are masters at it.
Fine, said the skeptical editors. But, so what? If you look at how entrepreneurs behave, there is nothing to be learned. Each entrepreneur is unique, and their behavior is idiosyncratic.
True. But if you look at how they think you find amazing similarities.
The process just about all of them follows in creating their companies looks like this. They begin by figuring out what they want to do, the thing that gets them excited. And from there, they:
1. Take a small step toward that goal.
2. Pause after taking that small step to see what they have learned.
3. Build off that learning and take another small step.
4. Pause after taking that step.
5. They build off what they learned from taking that second step and take another small step...
If we were to reduce it to a formula, it would be Act. Learn. Build. Repeat.
Here is what is wonderful about this approach.
You can start quickly; you get instantaneous market feedback (no months or years of planning) and if you fail--i.e. your idea doesn't resonate with enough people--you fail quickly and cheaply which leaves enough resources to fight another day.
And, of course, if it turns out you are on to something, you have a built in process than not only allows you to continue to move quickly, but also keeps you on track.
It turns out entrepreneurs can teach all of us not just a thing or two, but an awful lot, about how to innovate and create opportunity.