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London, EC2Y 8DD
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London-based creative training, consulting & strategic design company providing onsite & public courses on the Creative Problem Solving Process, team-building, leadership, entrepreneurial mindset, business storytelling, applied improvisation and innovation facilitation. We run ideation sessions, we mentor, we coach, we deliver. In all we do, we're here to make you more agile & more successful in the face of change. 

Blog

Systems of meaning for innovators and entrepreneurs

Kate Hammer

Today I'm delighted to be joining the teaching team of Cambridge University Judge School of Business's Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship. It's a highly practical programme, over 12 months, that combines intensive residential learning with individual projects and online distance learning. From the delegates list, I can see that Judge's Pg Dip programme is attracting not simply top talent - but a very interesting range of business and creative people. Of course I can't wait!

For delegates today is Day 2 of Residential Week 1. This afternoon, I'm offering two sessions that together aim to help these entrepreneurs develop something very important: a system of meaning about the venture they're planning that will sustain them as they create an offering that solves a real and relevant problem, win resources to put their plan into action, and continually learn from "the doing" to revise and adapt to real-world responses. As a recent Harvard Business School study of 400 HBS alum startups found: 93% of startups found that their initial strategy failed, and needed to adapt. The study also showed (no surprise) that the difference between those startups that survived and those that did not was simply: was there enough money in the bank left by the time the adapted strategy was ready? The tools I'll share today will help this cohort "do the adapting" over time...and in time.

Word of that study came from Dr Clayton Christensen, author of Innovator's Dilemma and more recently formulator of a new idea: the capitalist's dilemma. Dr Christensen was speaking last night at RSA (and I'm sure KILN will be blogging about that talk in due course).

The capitalist's dilemma Christensen has framed is this: when efficiency innovations are the priority, capital is not invested in the kinds of innovations (namely empowering ones) that enfranchise more people to access a a product or service and thereby create jobs. The important point of this for the question of meaning is: Return on Capital as a priority target was created by the finance field, which has grown its tool set, established its leadership as a profession over general management, and eaten an increasing proportion of company time in terms of two important dimensions: headcount and agenda. There are more finance professionals within companies than ever before. There are more conversations and targets within companies expressed only in the language of finance than ever before. Often to the detriment of meeting real customers' actual needs and doing true R&D. Dr Christensen explained last night that finance "won" because numbers provide a common language. But he also judges that the language of finance is inadequate for the tasks of building a business.

So today I'm off to Judge School of Business to share how we at KILN provide tools and techniques enabling entrepreneurs (independently or within company settings) to develop meaning that is valuable  in human terms, not simply financial ones.

Heigh ho, heigh ho. It's off to Kings Cross I go. 

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