The opening keynote speaker at the International Conference on Management Leadership and Governance (ICMLG) was Dr Dan Isenberg. His topic was A Critical Path to Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. Isenberg described entrepreneurship, challenged a few folklore beliefs and introduced a concept he called an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Many scholars, business leaders, community leaders—and much of the popular press—would have us believe that the Google, Facebook, LinkedIn perspective of entrepreneurship is somehow the normal model to be pursued. (This being the rapid growth from nothing towards an IPO event 6–8 years later.) Isenberg challenged this view, and did so very strongly. He cited many examples of successful entrepreneurial businesses that are not necessarily startups or innovative or youthful or owners of small businesses. The data shows that many startups simply don't grow. Further, entrepreneurial businesses are far more likely to come from ideas that are written off as dumb or worthless by 'experts'. In contrast, entrepreneurial businesses are more commonly found in older, basic industries, and that they achieve sporadic growth over time.
According to Isenberg's research (and experience from several working examples), some of the critical characteristics of successful entrepreneurial ecosystems are actually quite different from those that are commonly regarded as being crucial:
Those characteristics that are commonly regarded as being desirable, but are actually much less important in reality include:
Isenberg's comments will unsettle many folk, particularly those with an involvement or association with incubators, clusters, angel clubs or local EDAs. However, the evidence is compelling (and not dissimilar to the thoughts on innovation that Dr Bob Brown shared at ANZAM in Dec'13). Folk associated with these groups could do far worse than to take stock, because the current approaches aren't working.
Isenberg's talk set an expectant tone for the conference. It challenged much conventional wisdom, and was a breath of fresh air.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.