So, I have an idea. I have lots of ideas actually. Most of them are silly, like opening a franchise of gyms in airports or developing an automated pooper-scooper (the DogPoomba) or a hand-written and delivered greeting card company. It’s usually out of some sort of laziness that I start thinking about these things—like not wanting to clean up the backyard. And I get really excited. For about 10 minutes. Then I go back to watching TBS reruns. But what makes an idea worth pursuing? What makes this time different?
Socially minded entrepreneurship, as far as I can tell, appears to be composed of equal parts vision and feasibility.
In truth, it is how we retroactively interpret Gandhi that makes it seem like he knew from the very start the extent of the influence he would have on the world. I hazard to guess that was not true.
I feel oppressed by my own ego when I try to imagine the world a better place because I lived in it. The truth, very simply put, is that I don’t want to be Gandhi. Gandhi, I don’t think, set out to be Gandhi. I want to be me, and live my honest, yet somewhat selfish life, putting to good purpose what I have earned and been given. I have a modest goal. I have a vision for creating something meaningful with the resources I have.
When it comes to being able to make things happen, the most important ideas I have had were those that had a chance to live beyond my imagination. Those ideas where I could see each of the pieces, even if I wasn’t sure how they would come together. Ideas that have a chance of surviving are made of components that have been proven in other contexts—like the adaptation of an old technology for a new purpose, like the touch screen for mobile phones.
I feel like there is a lot of misperception about entrepreneurship. The idea persists that you sort of have to GO FOR IT. Take a flying leap. Don’t test, just go, make it happen. And to some extent, I think this can be as motivational to us as grandiose visions of changing the world. But this, I think can end us up in a lurch. One of my favorite professors, Bill Duggan, once shared with me an old saying that went: “Don’t throw out your old bucket until you are sure your new one doesn’t have a leak.” Success in new social ventures, it seems to me, depends on careful analysis and a notion of what is possible, motivated by purpose and faith that the pieces will all fit together.