Start-Ups and Your Collective Intelligence

.All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed—finding our food, feeding ourselves. That’s where human history began. We have forgotten that we are entrepreneurs. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and founder of Grameen Bank

There is an obsession with start-ups. Something very exciting about developing a new thing from scratch. I have had the pleasure and pressure of working for founders—the people who were possessed by an idea. I learned a way of thinking, call it entrepreneurship. I learned that being truly creative and inventive requires an iterative process of trial and error. It requires a passion of purpose. And a critical eye and mind for the elements of success. We all have the capability of an entrepreneur and crave the energy and urgency that comes from a new venture, but only some of us pursue it as a way of living. Vfa

That’s why I agreed to join the initial faculty of VentureforAmerica (VFA). This is its own networking story—VFA’s founder, Andrew Yang, is a good friend of a former Coro Fellow I mentored and Eddie Shiomi, VP of Programs, an undergraduate student I mentored at UCLA. VFA is a brand new non-profit that recruits top new college grads and immerses them in a “start-up” mentality and then places them in new ventures for 2 years to apprentice under veteran entrepreneurs. Its mission is to revitalize America through entrepreneurship—that’s all! J How cool is this?!

So I parachuted into VFA’s start-up boot camp that is 4 weeks of an intense hybrid curriculum of “start-up weekends”, hackfests, and MBA-like case studies. I injected my ideas about career development and networking and performed some team coaching of these 40 wannabe entrepreneurs—VFA Fellows. I witnessed the birth of their start-up mindsets. New parts of their grey matter were being exercised. You could see the learning in their eyes! Unlike many internships or graduate programs, VFA is engaging their entrepreneurial brains and installing a new way of thinking through learning by doing. These Fellows will never see the world the same again.

My entrepreneurial juices were rejuvenated by this boot camp and the bright minds of the VFA Fellows.

On the plane ride back to LA, I finished Reid (Mr., Start-up and Linked-In founder) Hoffman’s book, The Start-UP of You. It is a wonderful inspiring book that frames the issues of career development in new and digestible ways.

For many of us, the most important start-up is the Start-Up of You! Retooling the old self for the new world. Getting new motivation and energy to do some much needed self-re-invention. If you were a company or a concept, how would you evaluate your marketability, your competition, your packaging? This book pushes you to change and adapt and provides some good steps and exercises to get you going. .

Hoffman re-defines and re-positions Networking as the critical element to your start-up. Old networking used to be vertical along the hierarchical lines of the employer. No longer. You need to nurture a horizontal network across companies, sectors, and geography.

“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” Is your network aspirational? Or is it holding you back?

 “An individual’s power is raised exponentially with the help of the network (team).”Hoffman asserts a concept of Network Intelligence. That your network is teeming with information and ideas that are being exchanged that you can and should access. And there are other networks that are connected to your network and new networks that have valuable information, ideas, and guidance about your life questions and goals.

In the Global Brain: The Evolution of the Mass Mind, Howard Bloom goes into excruciating detail and scientific evidence to convince his readers that the whole world down to the sub-atomic and microscopic levels is interconnected into a Global Brain. –A network of collective intelligence that influences and informs everything.

Hoffman’s point is we are missing out on the intelligence of our networks and the intelligence of networks we encounter and discover. Networks which are only 2 degrees of separation from us! The people who know the people we know.

You dabble in and rely upon networks of strangers intelligence all of the time. We count on reviews of products or restaurants made by strangers. We read Wikipedia or surf the net with Firefox—open source worlds nurtured by strangers. Imagine if we tapped into the collective intelligence of people we know and the people they know. This is the essence of networking in the 21st century.

Then Hoffman moves into Build Genuine Relationships. I know no one tries to build disingenuous relationships but we do! I love this chapter because it is what I have been preaching for 2 decades. 🙂

Relationship builders:

  • Help others first. I say, Give without expectation. They don’t keep score. They think about their relationships all of the time not when they need them
  • Don’t focus on quantity of “friends” but prioritize the quality of relationships. Relationships that advance aspirations through a “diverse team of allies and advisors with whom you grow over time.”
  • Focus on getting to know people in their existing network. As I say, It is amazing who you know, who you don’t know. They connect to new people through their network. They avoid cold calling and prefer to be introduced.

“Genuine” relationship requires great empathy and active listening. You have to turn off the most powerful radio station in the world. WII-FM—What’s In It For Me.

Networking intelligence, collective intelligence and accessing the Global Brain are essential to your start-up and a greater community of sharing and learning from one another. Enroll in your own boot camp. Take on the most important start-up—-YOU. After all, you are an entrepreneur, now start acting like one.

Thanks for reading. John



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