Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cairo Day 2.5

Day 2.5
Business Models for Revolution?

Heading out to see the real Cairo, the taxi took us around Tahrir Square. Much quieter these days but still powerful -- one birthplace of Arab Spring, a revolution whose political outcomes are still uncertain. But the optimism remains high and much of the energy has seemingly channeled into innovation and entrepreneurship.

In a world where we must choose to disrupt or else be inevitably be disrupted, entrepreneurial skills are paramount. Sometimes technology facilitates successful disruption; sometimes technology itself actually drives successful disruption at a fundamental level. Either way, the game has changed for Egypt.

The game has also changed for entrepreneurs at a fundamental level. The revolution in entrepreneurial learning pales in comparison to the courageous folks in Tahrir Square (and Tunis and still striving in Damascus). Much has been made of social media as a disruptive technology that enabled Arab Spring. It certainly facilitated how the opportunity to be heard in ways that were not possible before.

Do I want to assert that revolutionary change requires entrepreneurial skills? Yes. Does it require a deep entrepreneurial mindset? Yes. (Do I feel cheeky in saying that? Definitely yes.)

Is not entrepreneurship ultimately about taking control of what you are destined to be? And taking control by creating great value for others? Once immersed in entrepreneurial thinking, it can be very hard to change back.

For the revolution in entrepreneurial learning, the enabling technology is actually a mindset: To grow the entrepreneurial mindset can't happen through education-as-usual. You need instructors/coaches/mentors who themselves 'get' the entrepreneurial mindset..deeply.

The poster child for this is the new, deep focus on business models - the lean startup model, the Business Model Canvas, Startup Weekend and more. Can the 'old school', "let's-write-business-plans" crowd use lean? Teach the BMC? They can try but think about yesterday's incredible display here at Cairo University. If Steffen, Povilas and Vera didn't share the entrepreneurial mindset themselves, we could never have pulled off what we did.

And I think (and we hope) that we have changed the students' thinking in ways that will 'stick'.

Takeaway: Bet on the jockey, not the horse. Bet on people leading entrepreneurial education who get (not those who think they do). Bet on the learners.

After last night, I'm going to be far less glib about referring to the "revolution in entrepreneurial learning", it is nonetheless a revolution. The changes are resisted but the changes are irrevocable. And change that is truly disruptive... is never incremental. You have to take the leap of faith.

We have to jump to entrepreneurial learning that is:

Student-centric, student-driven
Experiential & two-way - no more lecture/discussion
Mindfully/intentional focused on moving us toward a more expert entrepreneurial mindset
Deeply co-immersed in the entrepreneurial ecosystem
That is, in a word, entrepreneurial. 

Most will not get this (though all too many think that they do.. sadly)

Time for us all to jump. Now. You can't grow a great entrepreneurship program incrementally, you've got to take the irrevocable plunge. Who is willing to take the leap!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can build the entrepreneurial mindset further in the wonderful students at Cairo...

...and beyond. :)


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