A personal challenge of mine is to elevate the human condition through improving institutional methodologies. Along these lines, it has been my experience that sharing can be more efficient, and more economical than hoarding.
It’s no surprise that large organizations tend to fail at innovation –employees of such firms tend to have little incentive to go above and beyond the status quo, as for their work they are rewarded with wages and sometimes stock options that often don’t reflect the effort they put in. It’s a contributing cause of why people choose to lead startups; when they do so their business feels tangible, as the labor they put in helps it visibly grow.
Part of the reason why capitalism has been so successful in creating wealth, is that in a healthy society, incentive is aligned with production. As this is not always the case for employees in an organization, sometimes the organization as a whole loses its spirit to innovate.
Incubators are a step in the correct direction, but there is much room for improvement with their models. As currently implemented, venture capital can be wasteful as there is often little guidance on how money should be spent, leaving cash squandered on services that don’t help teams succeed. Moreover, traditional models tend to scare away innovators, as short term growth targets often encourage startups to optimize for fast equity inflation rather than true value creation. Such myopia leads to lost productivity, a distrust of the businesses by prospective employees and customers, and disturbingly, loss of passion from the company founders.
In 2013, I co-founded a university student innovation lab, “The construct @ RIT”, with the goal of creating freedom through reducing social barriers to accessing capital equipment.1)The Construct @ RIT Although the university was well equipped with multi-million dollar tools, they were sitting unused a majority of the time, simply due to politics restricting access to them.
By giving students free access to tools and mentorship, amazing gadgets were prototyped by self-motivated individuals, all without million dollar budgets. Some of them were even useful enough to be turned into viable products, though, establishing channels to do so at the time was beyond the scope of the planned project.
I’ve been exploring ways to do this at a more impactful scale; to create an organization that allows people access to three things;
- A welcoming community that helps break down the psychological barriers to taking risk, and is open and willing to share experience and wealth among innovative leaders.
- Tools and prototyping resources, and guidance to make effective use of them.
- A pipeline to help folks bring their project from concept to manufacture and distribution.
People who utilize shared resources to their economic benefit, could pay a portion of their gains back into the organization. It’s a simple philosophy of putting capitalism to good work to benefit those with the drive to make their ideas succeed. Through this framework less time may be spent reinventing the wheel, and more resources can be rapidly dedicated to building good products, trust among customers, and establishing effective channels for wealth creation.
It’s ironic that venture tends to fail at lasting innovation, but it may not be inherent to the fact that it’s risky by nature. It may just be that the industry misunderstands what successful cooperation really looks like, and with an improved, responsible incentive philosophy, it may become a pathway to success that’s reliable for everyone.
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