When I officially joined the ranks of American entrepreneurs 3 years ago, I was asked about my Eureka Moment, that act that defined my new identity, and enabled me to break ranks and embrace change. I was also asked about which Minimum Viable Product (MVP) I would be launching. Coming from the educational arena and not knowing all the business jargon yet, I wasn’t yet familiar with the term MVP. Nor was I familiar with the writings of the great Steve Blank, author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win. I hadn’t yet read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. I recommend both books, and follow Steve Blank here on WordPress and online. I didn’t think in terms of the lean startup philosophy when I first launched my company, Socially Speaking LLC. I assumed I was being asked about which service/product would become my Most Valuable Player (MVP). I admit that I don’t follow sports (don’t start), despite having only brothers, being a Mac Girl and tech-geek, and loving Star Wars, Star Trek, and all things Joss Whedon and Tim Kring 🙂 But I do follow op-ed pieces and sport themed movies that make me think about the players behind the uniform, about their Story. I loved the movies Remember the Titans and The Rookie. I enjoyed reading this online article about who should be baseball’s MVP for 2013:
So what was my MVP in my own Story as a startup, bootstrapping, female entrepreneur? What did I realize I had to offer, way back in 2009 before female entrepreneurship was all the rage? My thought leadership skills, through lecturing and writing. I started out giving national seminars on my trademarked/copyrighted Socially Speaking™ Social Skills Curriculum for Young Children with Autism/Special Needs.
I have since produced a Minimum Viable Product, my Socially Speaking™ iPad App, but I have remained true to my small company’s Mission, and my perception of what an MVP really is.
Since Harvard professor and businessman Clayton Christenson wrote about disruptive innovation in his seminal book The Innovator’s Dilemma, people have come to realize that a product, particularly technology, is just a thing, a tool, that can shape the economy only as far as its usefulness goes. Its shelf life is predetermined by its ability to solve a problem, satisfy the “needs of the many”, and help people change their lives and the way they do things. That is the real beauty of technology such as the iPad, iPod, and iPhone. Apple™ knows this, which is why their design and marketing is so deceptively simple yet profound. The Freakonomics Duo, Levitt and Dubner know this, which is why their book and podcasts are so popular with people around the world, especially human behaviorists like myself.
Economics after all, is all about behavior, and the societal and geopolitical trends contributing to a behavior’s increase or decline.
When an entrepreneur starts his/her journey, it is important to consider the impact that journey, that Story, will have on other people’s Story. It is crucial to think about the one service/product that in essence becomes the entrepreneur’s “lightening in a bottle” and dream product. One that will affect every other endeavor and service that entrepreneur embarks on and provides. It is important to think about what an MVP really is.
For me, the “lightening in a bottle”, the driving force behind economic expansion and disruptive innovation is timing. Cognitive i.e. behavioral/deliberate timing that can be harnessed to promote change. Timing involves not only committing oneself to seeing a project through, but to using one’s Theory of Mind (perspective, empathy) to continuously, and methodically adapt to one’s milieu. To alter one’s own actions, due to environmental changes that may be organic or behavioral in nature, resulting from changes in the topography and behavior of those in that ecosystem.
Thanks to Arianna Huffington’s invitation to be a guest blogger for The Huffington Post, I just wrote a published article entitled, Harnessing Time: A Human Endeavor and Female Entrepreneur’s Mission. In it, I asked a question:
Yes! We can do so through tinkering with our internal timing based on the ability to observe and exploit patterns, and to emotionally nurture collaborative, symbiotic relationships. We can do so through fine tuning time management of our resources and responsibilities. We can do so by honing our problem solving and storytelling skills, which have a common denominator; causality.
At the end of the day, we’re all struggling to harness time, make it work for us, and restructure The causality loop, i.e., action/reaction of our own choices/deeds, and its impact on our Story. That’s why it’s so crucial for female entrepreneurs to seek mentorship that has reverse mentorship opportunities. That’s why we all need to collaborate on doing work that matters.
As I wrote, the driving force behind economic expansion and disruptive innovation is timing. That is both the weapon an entrepreneur uses to positively exploit patterns, and the real dream product an entrepreneur shares with the world to help others do the same. Think of this in terms of character development, the unfolding good vs. evil struggle, and subsequent behaviors of said characters, over a season of meticulously planned story arcs, portrayed on a weekly TV show.
I am a storyteller at heart, who learns from other people’s Story. I thus like to make pop culture references to hit my point home. My friends and family know this. My seminar audiences around North America have learned this. Now you will too. Think of the characters created by Joss Whedon in his groundbreaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and those who inhabit the universes of Tim Kring’s Heroes and Touch.
To be continued……