Lightbulb #1: Everyone an Entrepreneur
Adopting a (Radical) Inclusion Ethic as Our Prime Directive
Imagine. The world empowered to change the world. That is what entrepreneurs and innovators do everyday. We need more. Much, much more. The solutions of yesterday are not solving our problems of today — and let’s not even talk about the problems we KNOW are coming.
Everyone an Entrepreneur is an inclusion issue. One that flies in the face of somehow you have to be ‘special’ to be an entrepreneur and innovator. That you were born with it or you are screwed. That only the few get into the club. A perspective that many people believe and hold dear, especially current entrepreneurs and innovators. (I have come to actually say that people are born this way…but just flipped the percentages around so that instead of 1% I call it 99% are…which pretty much means everyone.)
Everyone an Entrepreneur. The potential is enormous and the possibilities are endless.
Yet, as I look across my classroom I still see a sea of white with some freckling of brown. And still predominantly men. And still predominantly people that have no idea what being disenfranchised means. Everyone is not able to get past the gait…
I believe we took a huge step forward when we at the IDEA Institute defined an Entrepreneur as someone who “identified opportunities and connects them with innovative solutions and then brings people and resources together to make change happen.” This opened the door. At least cracked it open a bit because we defined in in terms of what you do, rather than how you were born.
But that is not and has not been enough.
So we’ve adopted a radical idea.
The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Inclusion Ethic. Inspired by Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, we said let’s get inclusion at the table. And even go further…let’s put it at the head of the table.
What if instead of having inclusion being one of the things on the list along with lots of other priorities, we made it the dominant priority?
In the schools in which we place our entrepreneurship programs (do some schools exclude more than others?)
In the way we present ourselves on our website (do people see themselves in the images?)
In the design of our classes (do these embrace diverse styles, cultures, backgrounds, beliefs?)
In the way we recruit for our classes (do our messages of “join us!” even reach diverse ears?)
In the way we interact in class (do we build a culture of everyone’s voice in, everyone can meaningfully participate?)
In the materials we use in our classes (do these reflect examples from diverse experiences and allow for diverse styles, cultures, background, beliefs?)
In the way we work with students with special needs (if they can’t follow a policy, do we adapt so they can still play?)
In the visitors we invite in to interact with our students (do the faces and experiences speak to diverse styles, cultures, backgrounds, beliefs?)
In the way we connect with our graduates (who do we invite back?)
In the way we work hard to understand our own biases (do we allow ourselves not to be perfect and work to make the invisible to us biases, visible?)
In the way we authentically commit to building Empathy (really, really work to understand what it is like to be in another’s shoes).
Throw open the gate. Get radically inclusive.
But…but…what if they are not qualified (how can you help them become qualified?). But, what if they lack confidence (how can you help build their confidence?) But, what is they have personal issues (how can you help them be fully human with all their messy issues and still show up and engage?) But what if…
What if we just did it. And really committed to Everyone an Entrepreneur.
We at the IDEA Institute have a long way to go to live up to the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Inclusion Ethic. It is pretty scary and daunting. And totally exciting. We will probably fail at things along the way. But we kinda like seeing an opportunity — linking it to innovative solutions — and then bringing people and resources together to make change happen. You are invited!