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A couple of weeks back, BadConsultant had the unparalleled joy of mingling with a small, select group of

[patsies]

executives gathered together to pass comment on some pretty astounding internal social networking technology. Cool stuff. Lots of opportunities. Of course, being BadConsultant, we extemporized, categorized, expounded and theorized just enough to bring these potential ‘deep-pockets’ to the edge of understanding of their problems and potential solutions

[our arched eyebrows and caring forehead let them know that we were like, er, rilly, rilly understanding of their pain… The draft Statement of Work letting them know we could make it all go away soooo easily…]

Of course, aside from enjoying the sound of our own voice, BadConsultant was also listening closely for inspiration. And, sure enough, it hit us about an hour into the discourse.

Think about your company. Think about mission

[spit]

vision

[spit twice]

purpose

[spit thrice]

and values

[vomit… politely]

Now that you’ve cleansed yourself of the kool-aid, think about the words that are used, and those that are used to explain just what those words actually mean (because it’s highly unlikely that the mission, vision, purpose and values can stand on their own without clarification or translation into plain english)

[No, really, what do these values mean to YOU]

OK, chances are that once the gag-reflex calms down, you’ll recognize something like this in amongst the hyperbole.

“We will be innovative”

or

“We will think big, but act small”

or even

“The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well here”

Recognize that? And who could argue?

Well… Er… Us, actually…

You see, this was the blinding flash of insight that hit us at our small round-table. And the paradox in this question is so simple that it’s beautiful.

How do you lead an entrepreneur?

Because the hyperbole breaks down right there. Entrepreneurs and large corporations are mutually exclusive. It really is that simple. We have bounced this oxymoronic paradox off a number of BadConsultants over the past week and are convinced

[that it’ll be chapter seven of our planned business tome]

that there isn’t an answer that keeps the distinction clean.

“Well, er, of course you can’t have complete chaos in the…”

or

“Oh… I’m sure that’s not quite what they were getting at…”

or

“Yeah, that’s right… Our execs are really full of s***, aren’t they?!!!”

And, of course, the reality is some mixture of all three plus a little bit of naive optimism – Execs really do think that entrepreneurship is possible in the modern corporation because

[they’re delusional]

they think that all the stuff that is stultifying the innovation and energy in their organization, all the stuff that is introducing risk aversion at a greater rate of knots than they’re losing customers, all the stuff that gets in the way of transformational decision making is somehow voluntary – i.e. that employees are making a conscious choice not to take their ideas forward. Replete with their over-stuffed egos and illusions of hunky-doryness, these executives commit massive, grand narcissism: They just need someone to lead them.

Hmmmm… Everything in the system stays the same but we expect different results tomorrow than we did today… Isn’t that close to the common-speak definition of insanity?

So, back to the question: How do you lead an entrepreneur?

And the answer: You can’t. All you can do is set an unachievable goal that they already want to take a shot at, give them some means (but not all the means) and tell them to get going. Nothing else. Just that. It means thinking like a venture capitalist. What’s the return on investment on the idea? What’s the risk of failure? What’s the get out clause? What’s the level of confidence that this person can really take this to the next level?

Leading us to our final observational question. The one that’ll really make you go “Hmmmm” and want BadConsultant to spend some time in the next few weeks

[billing]

working through the potential impact and giving you some options.

How much of your current executive development/training/experience is specifically geared to develop venture capitalist capabilities?

Clue: It’ll be one of the following answers…

  1. Huh?
  2. What?
  3. Why?

Until we meet again, adieu!

BC