2013 – The Year of Parallel Entrepreneurship Part 2 : The Verdict

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The experiment

“If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away.”

Linus Pauling

“A start-up is a temporary organisation designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”

Dr. Henrik Berglund

One year ago I decided that 2013 was for trying a way of life which was based on the concept parallel entrepreneurship. Read my post here for the background. Briefly it has been about working on many entrepreneurial efforts simultaneously.

I have chosen eight initiatives that I’ve been involved in this past year, which will be analysed here. The 2013 experiment is primarily not about these individual initiatives. They are just things that I’ve liked working on and think are possible, sustainable and fun ways to move towards better futures. They came out of my mind based on my personality, my knowledge and my intelligences in the context of my surroundings and the people who I hang out with.

2013 has been about starting and building a lot of things partly to see what comes out of such a creative effort. But the real experiment is about learning how and what to throw away, as Pauling said in the quote above.

This experiment is about my modus operandi. Or the modus operandi for any futures-focussed entrepreneur. The question I asked in the beginning of this year was whether parallel entrepreneurship is a way of life that is worth pursuing for myself:

“The aim here is not to make millions of dollars or change the world, but to have fun and learn while doing good and testing the financial viability of parallel entrepreneurship for me and my context.”

Here I’ll try to evaluate this experiment.

The Projects

First I will comment briefly on the eight projects I have worked on within the parallel entrepreneurship ‘container’ of my work. I could write a book with all my experiences and learnings from this year, but no one reads books any more, do they?

I excluded some projects and came to eight:

  1. 10plus10 Labs – A cross-sector, cross-organisational innovation and learning lab for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.
  2. Footscray Maker Lab – an emerging Hackerspace established to  provide a place for transformative and commons oriented creative initiatives from many avenues.
  3. InnnovationGhost – A user-maintained simple open innovation platform which promotes “anonymous entrepreneurship”.
  4. Hub Futures and Foresight group and its foresight process to crowdsource the future of the Hub.
  5. The Biodiversity Game – a board game for sustainability education.
  6. The Spider Game – A role playing game about thinking styles.
  7. Creativity PRISM – a generative idea and strategy development tool and integrated solution for making awesome ideas happen.
  8. Superhero Spaces, a non-profit organisation which highlights and strengthens the global network of creation spaces.

On a purely emotional level, these are my feelings about these projects today why they work / don’t work:

  1. 10Plus10Labs: Lack of personal network, boredom, seen it pop up elsewhere. Status: Hibernation
  2. Footscray Maker Lab: Great initial energy, Leadership transferred without enough structures built. Energy fading. Status: Left an emerging project, which I initially communicated to all involved, but perhaps this was not such a good idea…
  3. Innovation Ghost: Complexities with Russian elancers. Status: Merging into other project.
  4. Hub Scenario workshop series: Successful project due to great team and clear aims? Status: Finished
  5. Biodiversity game: Transient community, challenge with game mechanics , without “fire”. Status: Hibernation
  6. Spider Game: Game mechanics difficult, no community, still exciting. Status: Hibernation
  7. CreativityPRISM: Who is it for?, too complex – needs work with user experience, needs investments. Status: Hibernation
  8. Superhero Spaces: Excitement, building global network, what next?, hope for the future, needs funding. Status: Full activity

The elements

On a rational / analytical level I will use a four-quadrant analysis for parallel entrepreneurship from the original post.

e5e35-screenshot2013-01-18at10-05-00am

From that post;

“In the upper-left quadrant are the ideas, thoughts and intuitions that pop up in my brain. These are then translated out in the external world through prototypes, products, services or “value” for others and myself. In order to do this I will need what’s in the lower quadrants; a platform or container for my ideas/projects, which can be either online or offline, populated by communities, tribes or other collectives of people.”

If we look at the eight entrepreneurial initiatives with these four quadrants in mind it would look something like this:

Initiative

Upper Left (UL)

Upper Right (UR)

Lower Left (LL)

Lower Right (LR)

10plus10

x

Footscray Maker Lab

x

x

x

x

Innovation Ghost

x

Hub Futures

x

x

x

x

Biodiversity Game

x

x

Spider Game

x

Creativity PRISM

x

x

x

Superhero Spaces

x

x

This analysis does not tell me much and I obviously need to continue my work on the four-quadrant model 😉

Four Learnings in four quadrants

These quadrants will however be used as the framework for some learnings I’d like to share with you.

1. Learn what makes you have good ideas (UL)

Recently, I went to a talk by this year’s Nobel laureates in chemistry. One of them, Michael Levitt, had this reflection around his creative process;

“Ideas don’t come from sitting down and writing on a paper. A good idea is worth a lot. So learn what makes you have good ideas”.

Basically, my starting premise was that we sometimes have to remove ourselves from our ideas.  Instead we might see them as separate individual entities that come to us from someone else or some other place “beyond” the accepted and known. This is how most traditional spiritual and religious beliefs view overwhelming and sticky ideas, and I find the concept useful here.

Those are two of the characteristics in these eight projects; overwhelming and sticky ideas. Overwhelming in that they have come to me or others in epiphany-like situations, and sticky in that they have stayed in the brain – not wanting to sink back and become ‘just an idea’. They have survived the usual inner critic long enough to lead to prototypes and projects.

But entrepreneurship is not only about ideas. They must be turned into value.

2. Create value (UR)

To me value (the UR quadrant) is the hardest one to define. Value in our world is mostly thought of as monetary, and we are accordingly mostly paid for tangible, measurable value such as products and services. But I think I have created a lot of value in these eight projects without necessarily making money. And this is my main focus for next year. What is my value proposition and how can I charge for what I do?

I asked on Twitter earlier this year something like “When do you start to charge your friends for the value you create for them?”, as this is foundational in a future peer-to-peer economy. If I would bake a pizza for someone it would be easier for me to charge, but how about changing how people think and act (which is essentially my value proposition…)?

What is your value proposition? Why won’t people pay you for your uniqueness today?

3. Join, build and develop communities (LL)

I have joined some communities and I’ve helped to build some: The Strategic Foresight Meetup, Footscray Maker Lab, Hub Melbourne Futures and Foresight Group and Stockholm Futurists. These are key for the parallel entrepreneur.

Which are your communities? Can you develop them by your uniqueness? Can you start a new one?

4. Find or start a superhero space (LR)

Many people confuse a community with a space.  A space is the structure which is populated by a community. A coworking space, a lab, an office, a clubhouse, a dojo.

I have worked from some fantastic spaces in 2013: Stockholm’s Entreprenörskyrkan and ImpactHub. The spaces in Melbourne which are mentioned above. Spaces in Berlin, Amsterdam, Perth and Gothenburg.

Is there a superhero space near you which you can join? If not, is there a community which you belong to, that can start its own space?

The verdict

Here’s a great post about another parallel entrepreneurship experiment by Tim Dorr. I agree with his conclusions that it’s not for everyone. Tim writes that;

“For me, this path was interesting, engaging, and even rewarding at times. However, it ultimately was not sustainable for me.”

Maybe not for me either.

Because beyond feelings about, and analytical approaches to, parallel projects, it’s also about energy. If you have enough energy you can do anything. But you also need to like your idea a lot for it to take off. Or at least have fun when you work with it or with the team involved. But there’s something else which must be there for me. A personal thing (which might be unhealthy and I will reflect on more in 2014):

It has to be radical.

So how can you fund such an experiment?

This experiment is hard to do for most people. You must, like me and most entrepreneurs, have another source of income while you’re doing it. You can also try to convince your employer to carry out this experiment within an organisation. But I wouldn’t try to. I don’t believe it will work. 99% of organisations would oppose to such a nutty idea (while I actually believe that it is exactly what they need to do to be relevant in the future).

I’ve posted elsewhere about new business models for ideas people (beyond the traditional, heroic thought leader methods of writing a book, speaking gigs, articles in press, consulting). There are particularly two models that seem feasible here:

1. The Academic

Some academics fund their experiments with various types of action research, where they go out in the world and play an active role in a system, which they also observe for the sake of an academic report. This sounds tricky but might be another way to fund parallel entrepreneurship.

2. The Artist

Unless you’re a gifted writer, illustrator or film maker etc who can make money from blogging, selling articles, images, film or whatever, the business model of the artist can start with finding a patron or many patrons. I think that’s a good start to fund a parallel life. Micropatronage and crowdfunding are two online ways of doing this.

Can you see your parallel entrepreneurship experiment as an art project and seek an art grant for this?

The future of my parallel entrepreneurship

OK, experiment over. And now what?

Maybe this is the beginning of something new. Maybe the experiment was not an experiment, but something else which emerges. As expected, most of the eight parallel projects died, some merged and some took off. But without starting the parallel entrepreneurship experiment I would never have figured out which of these eight would do what. So my biggest learning  (which I already knew of course) is to start working on all your ideas now.

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One thought on “2013 – The Year of Parallel Entrepreneurship Part 2 : The Verdict

  1. Thanks Adam for sharing your journey. It’s a wonderful story and I envy that you have been able to throw yourself into your foresight and immerse yourself in experimentation and learning. I’d love to have the space to do the same but as you said, I need another source of income while I’m doing it (and as a parent I also need another source of spare time!) But again, thanks for sharing, very inspiring!

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