Networks and Entrepreneurship

Social_Network_Analysis_Visualization

As my students this week revisited their inventory of means (who they are, what they know, who they know) in the context of the specific enterprise ideas they are developing, I was struck by how much they focused on the potential for exploiting their weak ties into viable partners for the enterprises. “I recently met the guy who….” Or “I know the president of the ID student organization…” or “The owner of the place where I work also….” The next day, we coincidently hosted a talk by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez that focused largely on how network theory can be used as a tool for cultural policy analysis especially with regard to funding for minority-serving arts organizations. He described the five characteristics of networks. I was immediately struck by how these characteristics are also reflected in the entrepreneurial process, especially as being undertaken in m class:

  • Dispersed control
  • Interaction
  • Non-linearity
  • Adaptation
  • Perpetual novelty

Still processing this connection….more to follow.

[image: Social Network Analysis Visualization by Martin Grandjean, CC 3.0]

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Effectual Thinking → Corn Muffins

More than once, I’ve heard arts entrepreneurship educators, including me, reference the Chinese proverb about experiential learning: “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” To teach fishing entails providing opportunities for the students to cast their own lines, coaching them as they do so. Yesterday, I started to teach fishing (really, arts entrepreneurship) by turning the class time over to the students for an idea generation workshop. They are taking an effectual approach to arts entrepreneurship, which means they begin with their means (who they are, what they know, who they know, and, I would add, what they have on hand) to develop venture ideas – and ultimately an arts-based enterprise – from those means.

However, I didn’t want to go into the class empty-handed and also wanted to provide a real-world lesson on effectual decision-making. For me, that meant baking. Some of the best lessons for life can be learned in the kitchen where experimentation often – but not always – leads to delicious results. My means:

  • Who I am: someone who values from-scratch cooking/baking – no mixes here!
  • What I know: I know how to cook and, to a somewhat lesser extent, bake
  • Who I know: I know every food blogger on the internet (I don’t mean this literally, but I do have access to the knowledge of every food blogger on the internet)
  • What I have on hand: Corn masa, left over from a feast of Georgian food I had cooked up for a New Year celebration.

Knowing a student would also be having a birthday, I wanted to find a sweet corn muffin recipe that used masa flour (while I know how to bake, I had never baked with masa and needed some guidance). I couldn’t find something that fit just right, but I came across a recipe for a corn muffins filled with an ancho jelly. I leveraged a contingency – another effectuation technique – and substituted what I did have on hand: strawberry preserves. Who doesn’t like strawberry jam with their muffins?! The recipe as written is incomplete – cooking time is not indicated. This is where “what I know” became an important means toward the “end” of delicious muffins. I know muffins usually take 15-18 minutes, so I went with that. I tested the hypothesis of “doneness” using a toothpick (hypothesis testing being the core principle behind the Lean Launch method we will be using to implement our effectual thinking). After 18 minutes, I had delicious jelly-filled corn muffins, and my students had a snack to fule their creative thinking. [If you would like to read the prompts the students were given for the workshop, you can download that here]

muffins

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Animating Research

A few weeks ago, I shared some excitement about my research being used in Liz Lerman’s class, “Animating Research.” Yesterday, I presented a 15 minute overview of “Lowering Barriers: Value Creation and Evaluation in Arts Incubators” to the class. Students had previously read an abstract of the research*. Much to my surprise and delight, one of the students, Dance MFA candidate David Olarte, keyed in on the words “intersection” and “black box” and had actually created a poster/painting based on that abstract. What a great moment for me and my research!

incubator poster 1incubator poster 2

*This research explores and deepens our understanding of an element of the infrastructure for cultural entrepreneurship in the United States: the arts incubator, an organizational form or programmatic initiative that exists at the intersection of artistic production, entrepreneurship, and public policy. Through a qualitative cross-case analysis of four arts incubators of different types, the research opens the black box of incubator operations to find that arts incubators create value for client artists and arts organizations both through direct service provision and indirect echo effects but that the provision of value to communities or systems is attenuated and largely undocumented. Despite issues surfaced through the study, arts incubators remain a potentially impactful tool for supporting cultural entrepreneurship.

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Skills, They Got Skills

There’s a song by Mozes and the Firstborn with the lyric “Skills, I got skills.” The tune kept going through my head today during the undergraduate arts entrepreneurship seminar as the students developed their inventory of means: who they are, what they know, and who they know. The rest of the song is irrelevant (or even antithetical) to the effectual approach to entrepreneurship the students are employing to build an arts-based venture, but they developed a truly robust inventory. In a way, the class is now in their hands. I will guide them and prompt them (and act as amanuensis) over the next twelve weeks, but they will be creating an arts-based enterprise out of the knowledge, networks, and passions they possess.

skills i got skills

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Toilet Paper and M&Ms

I have asked (aka, required) the undergraduate students in my advanced arts entrepreneurship seminar to blog weekly about their experience in class and in launching a collaborative enterprise, the core activity of the semester. It is only fair that I do the same. It is in that spirit that I answer a question posed to me by a colleague:

Why the heck did you bring a roll of toilet paper to class?

Toiletpapier_(Gobran111)As we begin to talk about the way artistic production and arts firms engage in the larger social system we call “the economy,” I wanted students to consider what might motivate an audience member to engage with their artistic work. Do they need it? Or do they want it? Does the audience for live music, for example, “consume” a concert hedonistically or for its use value? Rather than lecture on the topic drawing from the likes of Hirschman and Holbrook (it’s a small seminar class, after all) I wanted to engage them more viscerally and kinesthetically in these questions. So…I passed around a roll of toilet paper and said “Take what you need for the day.” There was an uncomfortable moment and a slight giggle, so I started things off, pulling enough TP off the roll to last a day. We ended up with piles of product in front of us of sizes that varied noticeably by gender. Then I pulled out a large M&Ms_(8065581663)bag of M&Ms and passed it around with the same direction, “Take what you need for the day.” Nods and smiles ensued – they got it. Some students took none of the candy, a couple of people (including me) took three dear little chocolate bits saying it would be just enough to satisfy their chocolate addiction for the day. From here we were able to talk about audience, about hedonic and use value, about pricing and, when I asked them to throw away half of their toilet paper, how scarcity might affect value and pricing.

I had fun. I think the students did too. And then we launched into the entrepreneurship theories of Schumpeter and Kirzner…

[Images: Toilet paper by Brandon Blinkenberg, CC 2.5; M&Ms by Christopher Michel, CC 2.0]

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USASBE 2016, Entrepreneurship Everywhere?

San Diego at nightI recently attended my fourth USASBE conference in the last seven years. (USASBE = United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.) Despite the fact that USASBE awarded the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship with its Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Specialty Program Award last year, I always feel a bit like a fish out of water at this conference. About 80% of the attendees are entrepreneurship faculty from business schools. Nevertheless, there is a very active Arts Entrepreneurship special interest group (SIG).

A high point of the conference was a tour of some of San Diego’s infrastructure for San Diego Comic Art Museumarts and culture entrepreneurial activity organized by the SIG. Led by San Diego State’s Donna Conaty, we toured the recently refurbished Naval Training Center Arts District, which includes, among other facilities, dance spaces shared by three of the city’s dance companies and a museum of comic book art. It’s pretty wonderful that these decommissioned military faciliSan Diego Fab Labties have been made into arts and culture spaces. We also visited the developing “IDEA District” in downtown San Diego, anchored by the New College of Architecture and inclusive of a Fab Lab, among other spaces, both rehabbed and new construction.

A low point of the conference was the unfortunate keynote address by noted entrepreneurship scholar and educator Donald Kuratko. In an aggressive and at times belligerent tone, “Dr. K” indicted people (like me) who teach entrepreneurship within disciplines like engineering or the arts rather than in business schools. He accused such practices of diluting the study of entrepreneurship and went so far as to say that when entrepreneurship classes are taught in engineering (or, by inference, arts) schools, the student credit hour generation — and therefore the very revenue model of business schools — is threatened. He sounded defensive and angry; I don’t know that I have ever been made to feel so unwelcome. Ironic, given that the conference theme was “Entrepreneurship Everywhere.”

My positive feelings toward the organization were restored by the Bill Aulet’s plenary speech a few hours later in which he asserted that “entrepreneurship should not be taught in business schools if it is to be driven by innovation.” Aulet is from MIT’s Entrepreneurship Education Forum, which mission is “to promote entrepreneurship education by building a community that shares information and best practices, then integrates them and improves on them through open discussion…” While welcoming – even requiring – cross-campus entrepreneurship education, he also asserted that there is a lack of serious, rigorous scholarship in the field that creates or draws from good data sets. I have been saying similar about arts entrepreneurship.

Three years ago, when I first presented incubator research at USASBE’s San Francisco conference, the observed theme, or the methodology du jour, was Steven Blank’s lean launch and customer development process (he gave the keynote that year). My observation of the 2016 event is that there is a lot of interest in “design thinking” methodology as developed at IDEO and the Stanford d.school. Ultimately, these two “methods” have a lot in common – including empathic listening to the “customer,” or as I prefer to call people, “audience.” Fitting, then, that design thinking is the philosophic and pedagogic approach underlying a new degree being launched by ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts: the Master of Arts in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership.

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Anticipating Liz Lerman

Acclaimed choreographer, maker, community artist, and MacArthur fellow Liz Lerman is joining the faculty of ASU where I work, first on a visiting basis and then, next year, a bit more permanently. She is teaching a course this semester entitled “Animating Research” and has recruited five researchers/research teams to work with the 25 students enrolled in the course from across the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. I am honored, excited, and more than a little bit nervous about being one of those researchers.
 
Hiking the horizontalIn anticipation of the class, I am reading Liz’s book, Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer. Reading the book it has become clear that she is a consummate arts entrepreneur. She recounts how, throughout her creative life, she recognizes and then seizes opportunities to make art. She does this, for example, by recognizing that a home for the elderly can be a site for creation or a biologist’s lab can provide material for choreographic inquiry. She creates the structures necessary to connect her significant means (her talent, intelligence, and generosity) with the desirable ends of excellent participatory art. She sums up her entrepreneurial approach in four simple words in the “manifesto” that appears on page 40:

“Real work, real reward.”

I look forward to both in the collaboration I am about to undertake with Liz and her students.

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