Posts tagged with: entrepreneurship

Malika Worrell’s review of The Call of the Entrepreneur is a perfect storm of distorting prejudice, muddle, and simple factual errors. First, she says, “Much of Call’s 58-minute runtime is taken up with talking heads, most of whom are affiliated with the Acton Institute, affirming the film’s ideology that unfettered capitalism is inherently righteous.”

This is incorrect, and I told her it was incorrect in our interview. The majority of interviewees in the film, from Brad Morgan to George Gilder, Michael Novak, Jimmy Lai, and Peter Boettke, are not affiliated with Acton. Moreover, her description of the film’s “ideology” (why not say “argument”?) seems to be describing some other film. What little was said about the free market and capitalism in our film focused on the importance not of “unfettered capitalism” but of private property and rule of law. Such government-enforced “fetters” are preconditions for a successful capitalism. These are the lessons of economic history, not the deliverances of some kind of irrational faith, which Worrell suggests.

She also comments, “The film’s single-minded focus on the virtues of the free market is accompanied by a Calvinist streak. The entrepreneurial impulse contains elements “of God’s original creative act.” This is a quote from the film by Samuel Gregg, a Roman Catholic. The film is based on a book by a Roman Catholic priest, Robert Sirico, which Worrell elsewhere notes. Catholics aren’t Calvinists. Moreover, the idea that human beings are created in God’s image to be creators is a broadly Judeo-Christian idea, one shared even by deists like Thomas Jefferson.

On several occasions, Worrell criticizes the film because, apparently, it isn’t the film she thought we should have made: “Viewers hoping to learn more about the businesses Call’s featured entrepreneurs created will come away frustrated; the film is more interested in ideology than the actual logistics of entrepreneurship.” Again, she prefers the prejudicial word “ideology” to describe a perspective she simply disagrees with. In any case, this isn’t a valid criticism. The film is a response to the ubiquitous stereotype of business entrepreneurs as greedy misers that persists in both the entertainment and news media. It’s not a training film for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Blog author: abradley
posted by on Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In his recent and fascinating book Five Minds for the Future, Harvard professor Howard Gardner outlines the 5 basic types of intelligence people have:

1. The Disciplinary Mind: the mastery of major schools of thought, including science, mathematics, and history, and of at least one professional craft;

2. The Synthesizing Mind: the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others;

3. The Creating Mind: the capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena;

4. The Respectful Mind: awareness of and appreciation for differences among human beings and human groups;

5. The Ethical Mind: fulfillment of one’s responsibilities as a worker and as a citizen.

Gardner makes the striking point that the Synthesizing Mind is becoming more important than ever, given our highly technological, highly informational world. The Disciplinary Mind — or what we think of as classical intelligence, the stuff child prodigies are made of — has dominated the intellectual landscape throughout history. But, Gardner argues, now that the Internet, technology, and media are making massive amounts of very dense information available to the average person, the type of mind that can acquire and store information is still impressive, but ultimately less useful than a mind that can process, connect, and communicate cross-disciplinary information to others in a meaningful way.

Thanks to the Internet, everyone can now access the vast storehouses of intellectual wealth that once belonged only to a concentrated elite. It makes sense, then, that the new elite could turn out to be those who can receive information rapidly, sift it, connect the dots, and put the whole picture to the best possible use for others.

In my mind, the Synthesizer concept parallels entrepreneurship in a few interesting ways. Just as information can behave like a type of good or service, it seems a person with a Synthesizing Mind can make prudent use of knowledge for the good of the entire human community. Technology makes it possible for the Synthesizer quickly to select the most relevant material from the experts — who have divided their labor to manage whole disciplines and systems of thought — without laboring to build a monolithic knowledge base of every field on his own, which would take a long time and allow him to share only a few authoritative insights at the end of all his pursuits. This does not mean the Synthesizer hurries or skips over important steps: he still must be a careful scholar who humbly stands “on the shoulders of giants,” as Sir Isaac Newton put it. It simply means he is free to use his creative powers to illuminate more readily for others the way various disciplines interact and the consequences they have for human life. That in turn makes him able to harness and combine the talents of others to form a serviceable “product” faster than a person with a Disciplinary Mind.

If thinking truly is “connecting things,” as G.K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, the concept of the Synthesizing Mind has a great deal to offer to people of every category of intelligence. Even if you disagree with Gardner’s categorizations, having a Synthesizing Mind might help you to figure out why.

…at least not yet.

Check out this disheartening AP story, “Judge: Cleaner owes me $65 million for pants; 2 years of litigation x 1 pair of trousers = headaches for family business.”

The US court system shouldn’t be a venue for the pursuit of a personal vendetta. This case clearly shows how lawsuits can be used to bring incredible expense and stress on the defendant, regardless of his or her guilt or culpability. And unless things change, like moving to a loser pays system, the plaintiff risks nothing.

All too often the real victims in these kinds of lawsuits are hardworking small business-owners, whose livelihood is threatened. And when small businesses suffer, the entire community suffers with them.

Is the neighborhood being made better off by Pearson’s lawsuit? Is Pearson protecting them from a business that engages in false advertising? If Pearson drives the Chungs back to Korea, the neighborhood will be made worse off, not better, and Pearson will have settled a petty grudge.

When business enterprise and successful entrepreneurship makes you the target of predatory lawsuits seeking only deep pockets, there’s something deeply wrong with the tort system.

In this monograph, Ronald Rychlak argues that the tort system needs to be reformed with a view toward the common good.

Let’s hope in this case Pearson doesn’t get off scot-free. It seems like that even in the absence of a formally-instituted loser pays system, the arbitrating authorities should have the power to dismiss Pearson’s case with extreme prejudice and require him to pay all the court costs and legal expenses for the defense.

In this month’s issue of Christianity Today, John D. Beckett, chairman of the privately held R. W. Beckett Corporation, speaks about his new book, Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work.

When asked, “Do you think churches still don’t understand business as a calling?” Beckett responds,

I do. Relatively few churches and pastors are reinforcing the legitimacy of a call into so-called “secular work.” I have colleagues with tremendous business influence who are starving spiritually in their local churches. There’s zero feeding; there’s zero reinforcing of the call they have in the marketplace.

There’s still much work to be done. Check out the trailer for Acton’s forthcoming documentary, “The Call of the Entrepreneur” here.

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Friday, December 22, 2006

I like this feature on John Scharffenberger in this week’s U.S. News and World Report. It captures in anecdotal form almost all of the ingredients in entrepreneurial success. There is disregard for “conventional wisdom” and there is hard work and dedication. The author doesn’t articulate it this way, but there is also an ethical concern for quality product and the good of the customer. Entrepreneurial success isn’t as simple as all that, however. There is also “luck and timing,” and, without explicitly drawing attention to the fact, there is also the assistance of existing financial resources to draw on. The story is at once edifying and realistic, an excellent piece of business journalism by Kim Clark.

Forbes passes along a ranking of the fifty states (plus the District) on the friendliness of fiscal policy toward small business (HT: The Entrepreneurial Mind), provided by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (PDF).

Michigan ranked 10th in the list, which examines 29 governmentally-influenced factors such as personal income tax, capital gains tax, corporate income tax, property tax, death tax, electricity costs, and number of bureaucrats. Michigan was in the top half of most categories (it did rank 47th in the state rankings of gasoline taxes, which underscores the question of who profits from gasoline sales).

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, September 1, 2006

Check out Jeff Cornwall contra “entrepreneurial welfare” over at The Entrepreneurial Mind.

The Super MoneyMaker Pressure Pump

No, we’re not talking about Elmore James’ Blues hit covered by the likes of George Thorogood, Fleetwood Mac and The Black Crowes nor its racy subject matter.

Rather, it’s how members of the other oldest profession in Kenya and Tanzania power the irrigation pumps that extend both their growing season and range of crops. This foot-powered move beyond subsistence farming to much more profitable harvests, such as vegetables, is facilitated by the aptly named MoneyMaker series of pumps. 

KickStart (previously Approtec) 10 years ago produced the Original MoneyMaker Pump; the over 4,000 in operation still generating $3.9 million in profits annually. Since then the Super MoneyMaker Pressure Pump, resembling and operated much like a Stairmaster, can push water uphill 7 M (23 ft.) to irrigate 2 acres. The newest – and most affordable – version, The MoneyMaker Plus Pump relies on swinging one’s hips side to side on a skateboard-like platform, a motion that, unlike arm-powered pumps in particular, can be performed all day. Costing $34, KickStart officals claim it generates $1000 in profits the first year.

Though even this amount can be out of the reach of the world’s poorest, KickStart co-founder Martin Fisher, insists on a business model. Along with enriching “farmerpreneurs”, Kickstar has created a private supply chain though hundred of farming supply shops that sell the pumps and spare parts. Undercutting these local merchants and removing their incentive to stock parts would be one of the serious disadvantages of giving away the pumps.

Beyond the pragmatic concerns, their ultimate goal is to “create dignity,” Fisher said on NPR’s Weekend Edition. He concluded, “When you give things away, you are really just creating dependency and people hanging out waiting for more handouts.”

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Friday, May 19, 2006

The Rock Star, sounding kind of Acton-ish:

Bono acknowledges that four years ago when he toured Africa with then U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, bringing private sector with him would never have crossed his mind.

“…I could see so many of the pieces intersected with commerce, trade and entrepreneurial spirit.”

It’s a signal of changes in Africa over the past decade, but in part it’s Bono’s own advocacy that has helped shift attitudes toward the African agenda.

“I think it is bizarre that Africa got me interested in commerce,” chuckles the U2 lead singer in an interview with Reuters. “I am an activist but I looked at the mosaic of problems facing this magical place and I could see so many of the pieces intersected with commerce, trade and entrepreneurial spirit.

“And I’m saying, I believe that Africa can compete with China in terms of offering jobs to its people in the apparel sector, I believe Africa can compete with India in terms of offering jobs to people in the IT sector, if this problem of business efficiencies and strangulation of red tape and corruption can be dealt with,” he said. Africa’s political leaders know the influence he wields. Lesotho’s Minister of Trade and Industry Mpho Meli Malie is one of those who knows that having Bono pitch for Lesotho’s apparel sector could bring new investments. “A celebrity like Bono and with his organization DATA they should be able to penetrate and encourage some of the brands to consider Lesotho as a destination,” said Malie.

The more that Bono and his fellow advocates turn their attention to private sector and entrepreneurial solutions to Africa’s problems, the better. And Bono – if you’re out there – Give us a call, will you? Let’s talk.

Next stop…

Last week, it was reported that NASA’s budget is so thin that it puts “America’s leadership in scientific research is at risk.” (Last year’s NASA budget was around $16 billion, give or take a few hundred million.)

The National Research Council says the space agency is “being asked to accomplish too much with too little.” The group points to the competing demands of building the international space station and returning astronauts to the moon.

So what should a large government agency do when budgets run high and credibility runs low?

NASA is calling on private industry to build next-generation spacecraft that can land on the moon, and it’s got $2 million to back up the bid.

The PowerBlog has often covered the X-Prize folk (here and here) as good examples of the power of private entrepreneurship. Now, these folks’ good old fashioned DIY attitude may provide the answer to returning to the moon.

NASA’s exploration vision calls for putting humans back on the moon in the next decade. The vehicles to land on the moon no longer exist,” X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis said in a statement. “We believe that entrepreneurial companies can build these lunar spaceships, and a Lunar Lander Challenge can stimulate the required technology in an efficient and rapid fashion.”

For NASA, the $2 million prize money is a small price to pay for the promise of technical innovation from private industry or untapped genius. The contest does not grant NASA intellectual property rights to winners’ inventions, but the space agency asks contestants to be willing to negotiate licensing rights in good faith if it shows interest in a particular technology or design.

I look forward to seeing how well this works (and I suspect it will work quite well). And when it does, I hope someone (perhaps the PowerBlog) will create a pretty cost/result chart comparing the private company that gets us back to the moon and the government agency whose budget is “too thin.”