Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Themes for Study and Learning in May

Themes for April, with my self-assessment:

 I was pretty bogged down with my new course and the associated learning stuff, like Intellectual Property and different kinds of startup strategy.  I learned a lot — as I always do — by teaching the material in the course, but I didn’t accomplish much on study and learning themes 1 and 2 below.

  1. Read about plot and suspense.  I basically didn’t get to this at all.   It would get on the goals list for a week and then get shoved to the back by almost anything else.  Maybe just a classic case of “important but not urgent,” but I did some mulling about writing fiction in general during April and it was not especially fruitful or favorable to working away at the fiction-oriented Deliberate Practice.  So, net result: nothing.
  2. Read about Phenomenology and Existentialism .  I had intended to try Heidegger’s “Being and Time” this month, but didn’t get there.  Ditto the remarks above, with the additional observation that, pleasant and interesting as this stuff is, it’s really not essential to my life going forward.  I spent some energy this month reading about focusing on main things (“Essentialism”, by Greg McKeown, which was terrific, and The 80/20 Principle, by Richard Koch, which was OK but not as good.  And, frankly, Phenomenology and Existentialism are not as essential as one might wish.
  3. Learn more about DIY (“do it yourself”).  I did a fair amount of digging about DIY, mostly YouTube videos and Googling, trying to find out more about mudding and interior patching generally.  More on this this month, I think, although not one of the Big Three.

So, the May themes will be:

  1. Pathways to Entrepreneurs.  This theme re-emerges because I’m trying to dust off and get traction on my EBE Project from last fall.  The idea here is to figure out how to get academic research into the hands of entrepreneurs (and useful to them!).
  2. Retirement Jobs.  I’ve been selling the idea of actual jobs  in retirement short (as opposed to projects or little gigs).  I want to find out if there’s actually a possibility of a) getting a real job in retirement and b) getting satisfaction from it.
  3. Better Investments.  I’ve been asset allocating and rebalancing for years and want to find out if I could get better returns by investing more actively.

Themes for Study and Learning in March

Well, February flew by “study and learning”-wise.  Hmm.  I’ve heard and repeated many times that the perception of time is logarithmic: proportional to how much time has passed for one.  So a month now — and especially a shortie like February — is nothing like a month when I was 8.  Sigh.

Anyhow, here were the themes for February, with my self-assessment:

  1. Continue with Fascism and Totalitarianism.  Hopefully Arendt will become available soon at the library (or I may just have to spring for it).  Open to other suggestions.  Progress: Not much.  I gave up on the original Arendt and purchased “The Portable Hannah Arendt” at some point in Feb.  I read most of the Preface, but still have to get to Ms. Arendt.  See below, carried forward.
  2. PowerPoint innards.  I have a scheme to code a web app which will check your PowerPoint deck for “5 common Intelligent Pitching flaws” per my work on Intelligent Pitching over the last couple of years.  See back posts for more.  Progress: I read two days about ppt innards, and made some progress with “deliberate practice” on the python open-source ppt parsing lib (grok-ing all the makefile commands, for example).  To be continued, but not in March
  3. Poker.  I’m in a regular poker game but not getting any better at it.  Time to buckle down and do some reading and deliberate practice.  Progress: I started “Education of a Poker Player”, by Herbert Yardley.  Read the first chapter, which was all about “tells”.  Great stuff, and great for serious poker, but doesn’t help me with my group, where we play whatever game the dealer wants and they’re usually glitzy and whacky, so tells don’t help much.

And, looking forward for March:

  1. Continue with Fascism and Totalitarianism.  Will be helpful to an essay I’m trying to write this month, as well as inherently useful.
  2. Read about Intellectual Property.  I have to teach the topic at the end of month, and I’ve always — as a self-respecting software guy — kind of hated and dissed the subject.  Time to know more.
  3. Read about plot and suspense.  I’m trying to get better at this in my own writing through “deliberate practice”, so I’ll be actively researching the topic as well.

Comments always welcome.

The EBE Project

As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I’m working on a project with the Dingman Center at University of Maryland to bring academic research to entrepreneurs.

The thesis is pretty simple:

  1. There exists academic research (on business strategy, entrepreneurship, governance, management) which is of potential use to entrepreneurs
  2. Frequently this research is in a form where entrepreneurs can’t use it.  It’s “academic”, as we say, which means it’s a) couched in jargon b) written in that inimitable academic style c) geared toward research objectives such as gaining prestige or getting tenure rather than business objectives such as improving decision-making.
  3. This information is also hidden from entrepreneurs.  It is published in peer-review journals which are vital for researchers but way off the beaten track for entrepreneurs.

So the thesis of the project is that if we can 1) identify useful research and 2) translate/transform it into a form where it is business-useful and 3) find a channel which entrepreneurs trust to make this information available, then we can do a service for entrepreneurs and do a service for the research community.

Like most ideas, this is not an utterly new one, and sometimes parades under the rubric of “evidence-based entrepreneurship”.  So I’ve taken to calling this the “EBE Project.”

Of the various problems to be solved in the EBE Project, 1) seems the least problematic.  There is a good volume of research that is interesting and potentially applicable to entrepreneurs and their organizations.  Hardly a surprise: researchers are attracted to interesting problems by and large, despite the corrosive effect of scholarly timidity and conservatism.  I’ve sat in on a number of research-in-progress seminars at the Smith School during the fall, and there are more topics than we can easily deal with now or even soon.

The second problem, transforming the material into a form useful for entrepreneurs, is more vexing.  My few conversations with entrepreneurs about potentially-useful academic research have produced glazed eyes and what one might call “protective distraction”, where a difficult thought causes the listener to tune out rather than try to grapple with something that might be difficult.

The sad thing about this is not that entrepreneurs are skeptical about useful stuff from the Academy, but that it’s going to be hard to recruit any entrepreneurs to be “customer discovery” resources for helping the Project to understand how best to speak to them.

The third problem, finding “trusted channels” that will help entrepreneurs to filter the useful material from the chaff, is not as vexatious as #2 but still not simple.  My thesis is that most entrepreneurs have a circle of trusted advisers, and that getting these advisers — attorneys, financial professionals, investors — to recommend the EBE Project materials will go a long ways toward assuring at least a reading/viewing of the materials.

I’ve spoken with a couple of startup-oriented attorneys in DC and I’m teeing up conversations with incubator execs and investors over the next couple of months.  These will tell me a lot about which of these trusted advisers will be most useful.

More on these topics in coming days.

Your thoughts?

“Themes” for December

I’m trying to be a bit more deliberate about what I read and what I write about and why.  Most of my life I’ve just wallowed in learning with the result that I think I know a “little” about a “lot”.  While that’s probably better than knowing a “lot” about a “little” (the stance of the typical academic scholar, who seems poorly-served by his or her narrowness IMHO), it might be better to focus on things that were useful, difficult, mind-stretching, or all three.

So for December, I want to work on three things:

  1. Presence and Deep Work.  Josh Waitzkin says, in his book on learning: “We cannot expect to touch excellence if ‘going through the motions’ is the norm of our lives.”  It smote me, that sentence.  It really did.
  2. Ways to reach entrepreneurs with information that may be of use to them but they may not be aware of.  I’m working on a project to turn academic research on entrepreneurship into useful information products for real sweating bleeding entrepreneurs out in what Teddy Roosevelt called “the arena.”
  3. The World of the Adjunct.  I’m doing a fair amount of adjunct teaching these days, and it raises many questions: the Mechanical Turk-ization of work, the death of the academy, the problem of normalizing adjunct talents and strengths, etc.  I want to read and talk and write about these topics.

That’s it.  Hope you’re interested.  Always welcome your thoughts.

Why Entrepreneurs Should Study Poetry


A very short argument (so a very short blog post):

  1. Entrepreneurs need to size up novel situations quickly
  2. Our most potent human tool for sizing up a new situation is an analogy (“Oh, this new thing is kind of like when that saber-tooth tiger ate Og”)
  3. We can train our ability to do analogies by studying potent compact analogies
  4. Potent compact analogies occur at a greater density in poetry (and, btw, in songs) than almost anywhere else
  5. Therefore: entrepreneurs should study poetry to sharpen their abilities to generate and evaluate analogies