Archive for February, 2012

Want to be creative? Think like a genius!

Posted: February 26, 2012 by John Clarkin in Innovation, People, Planning, Startup

Last fall, my colleague Joe Carter published an article titles “There Really Are No New Ideas in the World.”  (Check it out at In it, he concluded that the ability to be creative is a learned process, and presented an overview of Murray’s “Six Steps to Business Innovation” as a process that can help spark new venture creation.  Joe’s article recognized that successful businesses are borne out of feasible opportunities, and that opportunities often begin life as ideas in the minds of creative entrepreneurs.  So, how do entrepreneurs think?

According to Michael Gerber, author of E-Myth Revisited, all great entrepreneurs are systems thinkers, ones who view their employees and associates as operators of the system.  Rhonda Abrams, author of Passion to Profits, says you have to think out of the box, think of change as something to embrace, and not to think of failure as failure.  While helpful, I would like to share some cues from a man whose genius is still respected worldwide 500 years after his death.

Like many of today’s entrepreneurs, Leonardo da Vinci came from humble beginnings.  He was the illegitimate son of a notary and a peasant girl, grew up in a small town, and employed as an apprentice in a workshop until he went out on his own.  The year was 1477, fifteen years before Columbus discovered America and more than 250 years before economist Richard Cantillon first use of the word entrepreneur.   Many viewed him as a misfit; working left-handed at a time when left-handedness was viewed as the devil’s work, and a strict vegetarian who would often buy caged animals at the market just to set them free. He was involved in so many different projects that he typically failed to finish what he had started and just went on to the next exciting endeavor.  Although he is best known for his art, Leonardo recorded his way of thinking in his meticulous notes, many of which are used today to help individuals and organizations innovate through creative thought.

In his book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Gelb presented seven steps to genius every day, all based on the writings of Leonardo.  I think these are valuable lessons for today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.  The first step in the process is curiosity (curiosita), an approach to thinking about life with insatiable curiosity and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning. The business boneyard is littered with companies started by smart people who began with a good idea, and then stopped learning at some point.

How does a person assess and improve their level of curiosita?  Do these statements describe you? True or false:

☐ My friends would describe me as open-minded & curious.

☐ I am always learning something new.

☐ I seek out new perspectives when facing an important decision.

☐ I take adequate time for reflection.

☐ I am a voracious reader.

☐ When I hear a new word, I always look it up.

☐ I solicit feedback from friends, relations & colleagues.

☐ I love learning.

☐ I am skilled at identifying and solving problems.

☐ I keep a journal to record insights and questions.

Your answers will reveal your present level of curiosity and some areas where there is room for improvement.  Want to be more creative and innovative? The first step of thinking like a genius begins with curiosity.

Goin’ Mobile

Posted: February 13, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, Startup, Technology

The Who’s Pete Townsend penned the classic lines “When I’m drivin’ free, the world’s my home, when I’m mobile.”  As we speed through Moore’s Law in all the technologies, mobile appears to be the fastest, game-changing technology ever. In 1982, Arch McGill, VP for AT&T, spoke to a class of young MBAs about the year 2000 when over 400,000 cell phones would used daily in commerce. Mr. McGill’s math was only off by a factor of 5,000. Nor did he realize how mobile communications would change our lives and our lifestyles.

Human Factors

Thanks to mobile, we can work 24/7/365 – reachable even on vacations (so is it really a vacation?)  We can distract ourselves while driving, no longer needing to rely on just drinking coffee and reading the paper whilst hurtling down I-71 at 65 miles per hour. We get frantic when we can’t reach our kids/parents/boss within six rings. The technology has changed us in to an always-on society.

What’s Next

The flip side of the human factors includes feeling safer with the ability to connect at anytime. Your life can be organized with calendars, emails, phone calls, address books, reminders all packed into eight ounces of silicon and plastic. Dick Tracy would have been insanely jealous.

Of course, I love to know what the next curve jumping technology trend will be and when it will happen. The mobile phone’s migration from a heavy brick-like phone to an incredibly small location and human preference aware device took 20 years. Apps continue to populate the app stores at astounding rates. Corporations are investing in mobile and the web as the results get better and better every day. Mobile has completely changed the landscape for advertising, making consumer connections and transacting business.

On March 5, the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association and the NKU College of Informatics will host MobileXcincy and look at what’s now and what’s next. Speakers from Paypal, Verizon, Rockfish and the Cincinnati Reds will all weigh in on mobile’s impact on their businesses. And they have only just begun to tap the incredible value in mobile. This conference hopes to energize and connect the mobile app developers community and the corporate/enterprise community which shares the same concerns about how you adapt and adopt mobile technology where the rules change hourly and today’s hottest property is so yesterday when tomorrow comes.


Contrary to popular belief social entrepreneurship does not equal nonprofit organizations. While social entrepreneurship may occur within and through 501(c) 3 organizations, the legal entity is not the primary criterion for social entrepreneurial activity.  In social entrepreneurship, it is the explicit social mission that distinguishes social entrepreneurship from other start-ups. In this way, social entrepreneurship can occur along a continuum of for-profit to non-profit organizations where the social mission is central and explicit.  Following are a few of the many examples in the Cincinnati area that use different models to deliver social value.

Nonprofit focused on social value creation: GCEA

Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA) is a nonprofit organization whose explicit social mission is to lower consumer, business and nonprofit use of energy. The Department of Energy provided early stage funding with goals of reducing energy / environmental costs and of creating jobs for Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. A recent study indicates that energy efficiency could save residents and nonprofits more than $60 million and create more than 300 jobs, adding another $13 million in economic benefit to the area. In this way, the founding of GCEA by Andy Holzhauser created a nonprofit organization focused on creating social value by reducing unnecessary energy consumption.