It’s hard to be a “maker,” to create something from scratch; to bring to life something new. But makers exist everywhere; sometimes within an organization and sometimes they are entrepreneurs venturing forth on their own. Some makers fall into this role unexpectedly, often while serving in a completely different capacity. It’s these type of makers that I have a lot of empathy for and, frankly, get very excited about! Why? Because this group is on the brink of seeing their own capabilities. It’s a pivotal time for them and with the right support, they can become life-long change-makers.
Last Saturday, I met with the Gabr Fellows, a group of Americans and Egyptians who are part of the Shafik Gabr Foundations’s East-West initiative. They hail from two different countries and a wide variety of backgrounds, though all are future change-makers. Cynthia Traeger, a mentor at the Founders Institute and I had the pleasure of hearing the initial concepts behind their “action projects” — the initiatives they’re launching as part of the fellowship. The group questioned whether they had the acumen to be entrepreneurs, being slightly daunted by how to go about determining their value proposition, supply chain, price, etc.
My response: you can do it! Here are some tips on how to be a change-maker, for this group and others:
Get obsessed with someone else’s pain. What is the pain point of the individual you’re serving? What’s their unmet need? Start here and learn as much as you can about that person. Ask, “How might I meet this unmet need?” and gather a slew of answers to that question. This is the foundation of new ventures – figuring out what value you’re creating before you figure out how to capture it.
Pitch your experiment, not your business plan. When you venture into the unknown, your idea is a hypothesis, a well-educated guess. And it should be treated as such — tested in order to validate or refute. Often times folks are asked to pitch their idea through a business plan, which tees up the idea as fact, and implies that the next step is execution. In design thinking, it’s better to approach you business concept as a fantastic hypothesis, based on great information, but instead of pitching the steps of execution, pitch as a series of experiments: thought experiments (secondary research) or tests to do in the marketplace (primary research).
Get visual. Pictures are a universal language. Tell your story visually, as much and as often as you can. It invites others to jump into your concept and help shape it in a way that words won’t. This is especially true across different languages.
The Gabr Fellows are a special group who find themselves in the unique role of entrepreneur. I look forward to seeing the change they’ll make!
What’s your advice to the Gabr Fellows?
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