Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why Do We Do Business?

What comes first when a person passionate about an idea wants to build a business around it: the idea, or money?

In a class where I was teaching entrepreneurship, we came across this question again and again. What really is entrepreneurship and why do people start businesses? Since the class was an academic route to entrepreneurship, I also had to figure in another angle: why would my students want to start businesses, given that they weren't "naturally" doing it?

I feel that in order to work out any idea, you need a vision. Vision is seeing a context for the idea (or an idea in the context). That makes an idea relevant to its use. Having an idea in itself may be quite worthless. You can get three ideas per second just searching the Net. I call these "ideas from the outer space."

The beauty lies in the vision of the person driving an idea. They can read the past, present, and future - find the gaps - and fill them in. Or they can see things that never were, and say, "why not?"

There is no text book on what does or should the vision hold. Life is amazingly dynamic, and every instance there is a new world, new circumstances. There will always be work to do for humans and not calendars and computers around for simply this one reason: only a human can deal with the amazing chaos of life. So there is a new vision for each time and its unique circumstances.

In this era, the global society is rapidly becoming aware of long-forgotten Responsibility/Response-ability. Responsibility to ourselves, our families, our communities, our environment. This is one wave that will just not turn back without changing the landscape. Nay, this isn't just a wave. It's the Tsunami of Change.

These new times demand a radical re-thinking of why we do business. To my mind, the days of the gold-diggers and king-makers are over. Not their reign, but their kind of mindset. The new generation of people is generally not dreaming on individual level - they feel responsible for change around them. At the very least, we know we can't keep escaping.

In these times, entrepreneurs won't think old-style: to madly pursue an idea and grow rich at any cost. The modern entrepreneur is doing a balancing act.

And for those entrepreneurs who are looking for a new kind of vision, a new thinking, a new mindset, a balance - I present the PC MOB: the People-Centered Model of Business. This model says, "We do business for the people." What? How? Why? The paper (PDF; 540K) answers the questions.

It's a first draft, and I can already see a ton of things to add and change. I'm excited. Get it here (PDF; 540K), read it, distribute it, link to this blog entry. Share with friends, use the ideas and send me your comments. Agree. Disagree. Let's talk!

E-mail: nextbyramla AT


Anonymous said...

Interesting paper Ramla.

I like the following concept:
Missing, Exaggerated, Underplayed
Roles = Opportunities

It's quite a unique way of looking at why people start businesses. Of course finding need gaps in the market and producing a product or service that fulfills the gap is a concept that has been around for a while, but mapping those needs to roles is an interesting twist.

Ramla Akhtar said...

Thanks, Mohit. I am doing further work on the paper and hope to find newer angles of looking at age-old issues so that we cna create new solutions... and just create!

S A J Shirazi said...

Thanks Ramla. Interesting and valuable for students (may be for every one). I have posted this on my blog. And if you don’t brand me for materialism, I would say that it is “the money” that is the basis of every idea, vision or whatever you call it. I may not say this while teaching myself but here I am speaking my heart out.

And I will follow this.

Ramla Akhtar said...

Thanks for the blog link, Shirazi!

And thanks for bringing "the money" up.

I agree that "the money" is the common denominator of it all. *I* would do business for money. But just thinking about "how do I make more money" only leads to exceptional successes in the world - which often haven't been sustainable. (Usually the idea is madly copy-able.)

I am still not able to word the idea right - the paper isn't about a higher purpose per se - but it gives a template of looking at business in a broader term. In other words, it places "the money" in context. The actual aim is to give an entrepreneur an integrated schema of business - so there's no/minimal conflict between the idea, the money, the community and the entrepreneurs own will.

I think a lot of people get bogged down there.

I'll incoporate that in the paper, inshaAllah. Do keep tabs on.

Kat said...

:) intresting....are you the ramla I think you are...from city school by any chance?

Ramla Akhtar said...

Thanks Kat. Yes, I am *that* Ramla. Is it the city where we met!? Need to jog this flirtatiously evasive memory of mine.

Anonymous said...

Ramla, I enjoyed reading your paper and Model, I have always been a fan of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Do you go into detail with your students about how needs come about?/ and how the inventive mind solves problems through creating ways to solve problems. For example a woman steps on a pebble left on the floor,she then invents the broom to sweep it away/ neighbor comes in and wants one/she makes him one and so the supply vs demand is born and a business is created to produce the brooms.

Ramla Akhtar said...

@ Larry:

Yes. I taught my students a model partly inspired by Edward de Bono's book "Opportunties." While I haven't read his treatise in entirety, the basic idea is: Why must our minds be problem-oriented? Why not opportunity-seeking?

The model I designed showed a progressions from a problem-solving mindset/society to an opportunity-seeking > opportunity-creating mindset/society. I hypothesised that initially, a society must solve a set of problems. Or, if a society finds itself in the rot of history, surrounded by problems left by earlier generations, it must first clean up its act.

An alternative look at the problem of problem/opportunity is how we "see" a situation. Do we see it as a "problem" or as an "opportunity?" Despite this philosophical nuance, there are situations in life which can be clearly marked as problems (troubles) and opportunities (creative acts).

I wrote this paper after I taught the course, and the PC MOB brings many of these ideas together.