An Alternative Approach to Starting and Growing a Radical Enterprise:
Everyone and their mama has a plan but most won’t work, here’s why…
THE ACT OF CREATION IS A MYSTERY (ONE THAT CANNOT BE PLANNED).
And Entrepreneurship (the act of creating an enterprise), remains a great mystery.
Entrepreneurship, as a creative process, is a mystery as deep as the ‘undiscovered’ ocean waters, of which we’ve seen less than 5% (still). Even the most robust and innovative frameworks in entrepreneurship (design thinking, business modeling and the lean startup approach) are just beginning to touch the surface in their understanding of how to create ‘something out of nothing’.
With failure rates close to 90% by the 3-year mark (for traditional businesses, most of which are run by white men) we can safely say that we know very little about starting a sustainable enterprise. And… it turns out that even unimaginable sums of money still can’t make you succeed or ‘create better’ as an entrepreneur. Yes, resources are essential but they are not the key to success.
To grow our enterprises, nowadays, we can find ourselves relying mainly on 2 approaches.
ONE: traditional business programs or classes that focus on: business plans, “blueprints” for launches, marketing plans, branding processes, communication plans, advertising hacks and tricks even some management science (the good old MBA).
TWO: some kind of incubator / accelerator / mentorship program that provides more innovative design thinking, business modeling, lean startup-type frameworks.
So what’s the problem?
THE FIRST approach lacks innovation and flexibility → it’s designed based on someone else’s success and doesn’t account for the ever-changing environment that your enterprise will actually live in. It’s also guaranteed (and in fact expected) that whatever plans you make will change the moment you hit the ground. There’s a slim chance it’ll work for you (and if it does it won’t be that unique or have the strongest potential for long-term success).
THE SECOND approach lacks simplicity and accessibility → it’s reserved for the elite few and sometimes difficult to implement in early startup stages. In its initial phases, creation is extremely chaotic and unpredictable and things are changing way faster than you’re able to think about them or process them consciously, at least. Mentors change, products/services change, everything is always shifting and we can’t account for that properly.
BOTH approaches use frameworks steeped more in “strategic thinking” than in “strategic doing”. An enterprise is not a product you can think your way through. It’s an ever-changing, living organism of relationships that have to be maintained, supported, facilitated and developed over time (the doing). What we lack is an understanding of HOW TO HAVE SUSTAINABLE RELATIONSHIPS (how we work with ourselves, our partners/collaborators, our clients), not the intelligence or mental capacity to create or strategize around products. And the most sustainable, long-lasting companies are not the ones that create the best products or services, but the ones that foster the most resilient, long-lasting relationships… INCLUDING our relationship to the mystery of creation.
All that said, we do not yet have an accessible, sustainable and successful practice of entrepreneurship. And the academics will echo this: entrepreneurship, as a science or discipline, is in its absolute infancy.
Most of us creatives (entrepreneurs, artists, healers, educators, activists) struggle with our relationship to the mystery of creation.
A very select few of us get lucky: we successfully create and manifest our visions (and get touted as superheroes for it). And even fewer of us do it sustainably — without destroying ourselves in the process. Creation is extremely challenging and it will take all you’ve got and leave you for dead if you let it.
Ultimately, starting and growing an enterprise is a process nobody can really explain.
You say fine: let’s accept that WE SIMPLY DON’T KNOW HOW to start and grow sustainable and long-lasting enterprises. Now what?
We need to shift how we perceive the mystery of creation.
THE SHIFT: THE MYSTERY OF CREATION WILL NEVER BE UNDERSTOOD FROM A WESTERN COLONIAL RATIONAL CONTEXT.
Because: the mystery of creation will not reveal itself if she is discovered, probed, attacked, experimented on, streamlined, blueprinted or controlled. Under those circumstances, she will simply disappear.
Creation is not something you “discover” with your mind.
Creation is something you understand with your whole mind/body experience. Like planting a seed or bringing a child into the world
So here’s what we propose.
AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH: CREATION IS SOMETHING YOU FOSTER (NOT FORCE).
Like a good relationship.
The first thing we have to accept is that, the mystery of creation will always and forever be: a mystery. Otherwise, we’d be better off being robots and there would be no point in being alive.
Once we’ve accepted that, we can create the environment and the framework to help the mystery of creation unfold in a healthy and sustainable way.
In the world of Turtle Tank, we believe that: Creation is something you foster, not force.
Your enterprise is like a seed or a child. You have to create the environment or frameworks within which it can grow. There are no blueprints, no plans, no preset processes — they are not for you to pre-determine. You figure it out as you go, as you try all that you can, get feedback and co-create with the mystery. 90% of learning happens through doing and social engagement… and that is becoming a clearer truth.
There are so many unknowns. There is so much mystery to account for, especially in very early stages, that trying to control things by developing a “plan” or following a “blueprint” or applying a singular “process” will just turn in on us. Instead, we can just accept the mystery as truth and learn how to live and work with it.
KNOWING THAT: HOW THEN DO WE SUPPORT THE CREATION OF RADICAL ENTERPRISES?
At Turtle Tank, we provide an incubator, a creation environment where you learn as you do. But that’s not all.
We are anchored in 2 important approaches:
ONE: We work alongside the mystery of creation by providing the safest and most fertile environment for your enterprise to unfold. And we teach our community how to create that environment for themselves, sustainably.
TWO: We focus on creating and growing sustainable relationships with self, partners/collaborators and customers (in that order). Relationships are the backbone of an enterprise and its source of sustained wealth.
We focus on growing your Entrepreneurial Resilience.
HOW YOU WORK becomes much more primary than WHAT YOU CREATE (OR PLAN ON CREATING). The day-to-day activities, the way you move through your findings/feedback, the way you explore and re-route, and most importantly, the way you build relationships… is what Entrepreneurial Resilience is all about.
Instead of planning, we invite you to develop your Entrepreneurial Resilience (I credit both Ije Ude, Turtle Tank co-creator, and Nkem Ndefo, creator of TRE LA for inspiring us to add Resilience here based on their work with trauma and resilience).
Entrepreneurial Resilience is about leaning into your natural, innate Strategic Instinct that allows you to make the best day-to-day decisions possible while working with and honoring the mystery of creation.
The art and science of entrepreneurship (how to start and grow an enterprise) will not be revealed through step-by-step formulas, blueprints or plans for success. At their best, they will assist us in growing our Entrepreneurial Resilience.
They will support us in creating the most effective and fertile environments to help us do the work of discovering who we truly are, how we best relate and what our enterprises want to become. We will learn how to accept the act of creation as an ever-changing, collaborative, feedback-driven process that unfolds over time.
We will learn how to work with the mystery of creation.