Sunday, April 6, 2008

Keeping the Vision Big

My friends at Verrico Associates are organizing an Earth Day event, and they've invited me to give a little five minute speech.

I've been demoing the prototype site like crazy, and I'm constantly explaining different aspects of the project in order to gather different kinds of advice, but I haven't yet done a stand up in front of a crowd presentation, let alone one with a five minute time limit. I could give a one minute broad outline of the project and then show a condensed four minute demo. I've thought about it quite a bit, however, and I think I want my five minutes of Earth Day fame to focus less on the project in particular and more on the big solution we're chasing.

Part of what's pushing me to do things that way is a little trip I've taken inside the mind of John Moore, Acorn's CEO. He has written the beginnings of a book, and, a couple of weeks ago, he gave me a manuscript and asked me if I would read through it and make some suggestions.

The document is a series of connected reflections on entrepreneurship and investing.

At its core is a metaphor. If ideas and technologies are racehorses, big, powerful, unpredictable, but ultimately domesticable animals, then entrepreneurs are jockeys, the small and often overlooked steering mechanisms necessary to any horse's success.

John writes about the great jockeys he has seen in action, discusses the attributes they share, and looks to identify patterns.

According to John, one thing the best jockeys always do is center as much dialogue as possible around their BIG VISONS. They are 100% up on the details; they aren't afraid to talk about the details; and they know to whom they should send people when people really want to dig deep into the details. But they don't get caught up. When they start conversations, they navigate toward the BIG VISION. They talk about big problems and how their projects will be essential pieces of big solutions. They talk about the change the world needs and how they're going to bring it about.

John says a jockey needs to be a fearless spokesperson: he needs to relentlessly challenge the project's core ideas by exposing them to new audiences and collecting reactions and advice. The best jockeys not only evangelize, they evangelize with such urgency that they make instant evangelists out of their evangelees.

If I'm a jockey now, and if I want to get good at being a jockey, then I need to get serious about evangelizing. I need to cool it on the details a little bit and talk more about the grand plan. I've been operating under the assumption that I shouldn't liberate the John Moore style evangelist within until I've built a team and some operational foundations, but I'm starting to think I'm making excuses. Just because the project is small and in process and unproven doesn't mean I get to slack on the evangelizing. Whether or not I'm buried in details and need to address them, I need to be a full time evangelist too.

So I'm going to take my five minutes on Earth Day Eve and focus on the BIG VISION...

We need a new economy. We need an economy in which businesses have incentives to repair the world, not damage it. New customers, strengthened customer loyalty, and increased market share are pretty good incentives, and each and every one of us can participate in offering those incentives. We are those incentives.

But we're not inspired; we're not educated; we don't know which businesses to what damage and what repairs. And, quite often, we don't really care.

We can care, however, and we know we should. We need inspiration and education.

We can do that in schools. We can write books. We can give five minute Earth Day speeches. Or we can see what we can do on the internet.

However we do it, when we create and mobilize a curious, concerned, and educated market, we will create a race to the top.

And then I'll pause.

And I'll say that the project is committed to making that vision a reality. And I'll tell people to talk to me later if they want to hear about the details.

Hmmm. Maybe. I'll try it out on John and see if he likes it.

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