VOL. 132 | NO. 154 | Friday, August 4, 2017
After Many Decades of Change, Why Haven’t Our Methods?
Cities have to be in a constant state of problem solving in today’s world, especially when you consider that the shelf life of leading industries is shortening in dramatic fashion. Consider that it took 55 years for the automobile to spread to a quarter of the country, 35 years for the telephone, 22 years for the radio, 16 years for the personal computer, 13 years for the cellphone, and only seven years for the internet.
It used to be said that you can measure the economy based on how the car industry was doing. Well, in today’s world you cannot bet your whole community on one specific area and you cannot count on it for decades upon decades. And this applies not just to jobs, but to how we serve, how we increase diversity and how we collaborate.
As much as we cannot count on the status quo, it is strange that our behaviors, methods and solutions are not deviating from the status quo in a material way. We have to ask ourselves: Why are we still trying to solve the problems of 20 years ago with the methods of 20 years ago?
We see now more than ever that successful communities are taking a more iterative and entrepreneurial approach to problem solving, rooted in the quest to invent something new as opposed to using “written in stone” methods with no consideration for the massive changes in technology, the economy, social environment and public sector.
How are we as communities envisioning brokering the interaction of our people, capital and technology? Further, are we instilling principles and methods that teach people to navigate not just today’s world but also the future?
Communities who embraced entrepreneurial problem solving approaches 20 to 30 years ago are leading today. Those who did not now find themselves not just lagging, but also in a place of denial of these new methods. They are anchored even more.
Corporations, governments, small businesses, philanthropy, nonprofits, capital and talent must start using entrepreneurial methods as a common fabric if we as a community want to globally compete. In addition to primary and secondary research, we need to insert the method of customer discovery to each concept, or the testing of the four core hypotheses: problem, solution, price/value and go-to-market strategy. We must take time to see if we can prototype and build our concept/solution and to learn from these experiments before launching into the full marketplace.
Communities must then put a business case together, taking into account business model viability, its assumptions, the competitive landscape, and the selling assets needed to scale up a solution. We must work to fit into the behavior of the many customers one would face. And these methods only really prepare us to get to the starting line – certainly not the finish line – yet most will not do this much-needed work. Once at the starting line we must embark on an iterative approach that requires flexibility for pivots based on feedback.
We at Start Co. spend most all of our time working with talent and their startup companies to apply these methods to create the conditions for success. With this track record, we have found more interest over the past three years of “non-startups” wanting to do the same – those in education, foundations, local governments, universities, nonprofits and even corporations who are stepping outside of their walls to embrace an open innovation environment rooted in entrepreneurial principles.
We now know that we are only scratching the surface when applying these methods to the serious challenges our community faces. Considering the amount of material resources we as a community collectively invest, we should embrace these methods now more than ever.
Andre Fowlkes is president of Start Co.