Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

I am a Knowledge Worker and a Serendipity Hippie

My Serendipity Hippie T-shirt! | Copyright Serendipiteettihipit 2010


Last weekend I attended Professor Esa Saarinen’s seminar, and as always I was touched and inspired by his thinking. Few days earlier futurist Jarno M. Koponen wrote a beautiful blog post about creative future thinking. Both of these gentlemen touched on a question I’ve been thinking lately:

How to be creative in a hectic entrepreneur/knowledge worker life?

I’ve earlier blogged about Esa Saarinen’s theory of Systems Intelligence and the two thinking systems that we all have: the automatic, associative, and intuitive, and rational, systematical one. This theory of Saarinen’s emphasizes how we often have a surprisingly narrow sense of ourselves – meaning that we seldom utilize our associative, intuitive System 1 in our work life, instead we are blocking it by System 2 kind of rational thinking.

Futurist and designer Jarno M. Koponen brought up an interesting topic in his Futureful blog: the role of reading and writing in a creative process and future thinking. For him, written words lead to constructive reflection and reflection leads to action. Further he describes how everyone’s creativity is different, how we all have our own ways of nourishing our creative thinking.

Touché! These two gentlemen made me look closer at my mental habits: how do I approach challenges and act in various business situations.

I recognize the need to mix the associative and intuitive with the Rational Riitta. As a knowledge worker I need to be more open and creative in order to find solutions that are not the obvious ones. One of my methods is to imagine the present situation couple of years ahead from now. Often this opens up a couple of new doors for thoughts.

Other means I often turn to are writing (not always publicly as now), reading (The Power of Pull is waiting for me), mindmapping, enjoying visual beauty in form of photographs and movies from different decades, and listening to the music. I am letting System 1 to have a proper leg room during the flight. There’s one more thing empowering me: positivity.

The Power of Positivity

Esa Saarinen discusses positivity in a wonderfully inspiring way. Most of us easily understand the value of the positive emotions; still we systematically understate the long term effect of positivity. This is what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Saarinen’s research partner, claims. Similarly to Saarinen’s thoughts, Fredrickson says: we can expand our awareness, by taking in from all of our senses. Fredrickson’s urges us to invest in things that bring us positive emotions; music, dance, books, walk in the woods, a hobby you love.

Fredrickson also speaks about 3-to-1 tipping point ratio meaning that we need three positive emotions to lift us up for every negative emotion that drags us down. Further she states “in the long term, our positive emotions broaden and build, and therefore result in more resilience and life satisfaction.” If you became curious, read more about Fredrickson’s thoughts in her research paper “The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotion” (pdf).

I found this lovely video (6 min) by Barbara Fredrickson, warmly recommended:

My favorite part of the video is her recommendation: create the mindset of positivity by being open, appreciative, curious, kind, and most of all, real. Very beautiful and doable!

A Serendipity Hippie

Inspired by these ideas I recently named a group of my friends, including myself, as ‘Serendipity Hippies’. I think the name describes quite well the attitude and spirit I wish to nurture.  As a startup entrepreneur and a knowledge worker I need to be a Serendipity Hippie too – I need to keep my both ‘systems’ active, let intuition, interaction and positive emotions affect my actions and decisions, which in turn hopefully nourishes my creativity, and also help me to develop ‘Hagelian’ trust-based relationships.

Via all these means and with help of my social (media) interactions I wish to give creativity and serendipity a chance, every day.

Finally, I would like to share a story Barbara Fredrickson told her audience during one of her lectures:

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Negativity. It’s anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and hate. The other is Positivity. It’s joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love.’ The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’ The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed’.”

We can become better versions of ourselves.

Entrepreneur: An Adventurer with Inbuilt Crap Detector

Guy Kawasaki's Note to Me @ Paris 2010

Inspired by an interview of Francis Ford Coppola and by an old article about Ernest Hemingway, I compared their advice to my experiences as an entrepreneur.

I’ve blogged earlier about my favorite topic, tacit knowledge and its role in personal and organizational learning. Francis Ford Coppola’s words took me back to these thoughts. In the web magazine The 99 Percent’s interview  ‘On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration’ he describes his working methods and techniques, for example how making notes, e.g. writing down the first impressions of a novel, helps him to find what’s essential in it.

I have a habit of making notes all the time, not only in work related meetings and workshops, but also of novels, TV programs, movies, and discussions. When I look back at my notes I often find a new angle to the subject at hands, and realize that often my notes are implying something tacit, a piece of knowledge, an idea based on the quick unconscious association.

In the beginning of interview Mr. Coppola presents his code of ethics that directs his filmmaking. I’ll find it very interesting:

  1. Write and direct original screenplays
  2. Make them with the most modern technology available, and
  3. Self-finance them.

With little bit of imagination I dare to compare this to mine and my friends’ situation as entrepreneurs. These points tickle my thinking: Firstly, for an entrepreneur it is important to have a clear vision based on your big idea, which in turn should be based on the real customer need you’ve seen, maybe based the weak-ish signals you’ve seen before others have. Anyways, your basic idea must be robust. It is your original screenplay, your starting point.

Secondly, Coppola’s request for the most modern technology: that’s an easy one. In my case it is about utilizing Cloud Computing and during the coming months I need better understanding what part Social Technology have in my business. I have no clear picture of it yet. There’s luckily a very interesting discussion on-going (in Twitter) about social business. Just search #socbiz or #e20 in Twitter, and you’ll see what I mean. Learning new things daily!

Francis Ford Coppola’s third point about financing is one of the key (worrying) issues for an entrepreneur. As both in filmmaking and for entrepreneurship, it is a question about how much independence you have. For Coppola financing must be easy nowadays, but for young entrepreneurs it is often a major pain. It takes a lot of energy and time, which temporarily can cut off some of the enthusiasm.

Learning, Risk Taking and Collaboration as Key Capabilities

All these essential issues points at learning, our capability to unlearn and learn is central. To change and to be able to see what is not visible: the tacit things, the weak signals. One sentence in Coppola’s interview shows how important learning is even with 45 years successful career, he says:

I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema. Because the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old.

His humble quote is very true in any business. As our business environment is in huge change, we need to see it as new every day. For an entrepreneur this means making best guesses and taking risks. Francis Ford Coppola asks a striking question to which every entrepreneur can relate to:

If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?

Indeed. Further Mr. Coppola shares his idea of collaboration and his role as a director, with wise words:

You must never be the kind of director, I think maybe I was when I was 18, “No, no, no, I know best.” That’s not good. You can make the decision that you feel is best, but listen to everyone, because cinema is collaboration. I always like to say that collaboration is the sex of art because you take from everyone you’re working with.

His words remind me of Mitch Joel’s recent post ‘Market of One’, where he writes:

Just because you do something (or don’t do something) is no indication of how the market actually is and reacts.

A recommended read, you may recognize the pattern in your business environment, among partners, business angels, VCs. For an entrepreneur it is vital to listen to everyone, be curious, to truly collaborate, and not make assumptions based on your personal opinion only.

To me entrepreneurship is about learning, experimenting, collaborating, and taking risks. It is an adventure. And I feel like an adventurer.

We all have our own personal methods and tools to manage the adventure. For me it is a cocktail of many things, the base on my beloved Systems Thinking, but to name one thing that has changed my way of working: social media. After I’ve managed to find ‘my people’, especially in Twitter, social media has opened a new world of knowledge sharing and valuable, most interesting global network of smart people. Whenever I have time to participate I learn.

Another result of intense learning and studying within social media sphere is this blog. I started blogging as I felt that I need to write down the (often unstructured) ideas and thoughts, and get feedback from my network of smart people. The feedback is very valuable for the learning process: when I write I am often developing an ad hoc idea and the feedback makes me think and rethink. I do need that.

Related to this experience of making notes and blogging too, I share a wonderful old article of Hemingway in Cuba (The Atlantic, 1965) which partly inspired me to write this post. Hemingway experienced writing as inventing. Here’s a quote by him which I like very much:

Fiction-writing, Hemingway felt, was to invent out of knowledge. “To invent out of knowledge means to produce inventions that are true. Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him. It also should have a manual drill and a crank handle in case the machine breaks down. If you’re going to write, you have to find out what’s bad for you. Part of that you learn fast, and then you learn what’s good for you.”

That’s basically what every entrepreneur needs too: Knowledge (network) out of which to invent, and a curious, open mind with a built-in crap detector.

I believe I don’t have to explain that.

Quiet is the New Loud

Photo by me @ Lanzarote 2010

I have chosen Quiet is the New Loud as my motto for January, and for the rest of the year 2011. With that I refer to tacit knowledge and its value.

I am inspired by the idea of tacit knowledge flow, a flow that relies on trust-based relationships. In these times of huge amount of data, paradoxically it is tacit knowledge that best supports value creation.

Rich flows of tacit knowledge are needed for success:

  • Tacit knowledge plays an essential role in our learning processes.
  • Tacit knowledge flow supports creativity. There’s lots of research on how diverse working groups are more creative, less dependent on old paths, and easier makes linkages between different domains.
  • Strategic success of an organization is depending how well it manages to blend available explicit and tacit knowledge.
  • Survival in competition is more and more based on capability to create and maintain fruitful and learning relationships with colleagues, partners, competitors, and customers.

We have unforeseen number of software tools and technologies available to support these flows. Still it is primarily not about the tools and processes. Most of all it is about an attitude – an attitude of the individuals forming a team, working group, or an organization. An attitude that embraces learning, openness, and transparency.

This is not happening overnight but I do believe that Quiet will be more valuable than Shouting Out Loud.

If you haven’t read John Hagel’s latest blog post about tacit knowledge, trust-based relationships, and talent development, please do so. It is an excellent read. Here’s a snippet from it:

As we enter a new decade, the greatest wealth will be created by a new set of entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will understand and address the unmet needs of those who want to participate in environments that foster deep, trust-based relationships across both virtual and physical space. These environments will focus participants on the opportunity to learn faster by working together in addressing challenges that draw on the tacit knowledge of each participant.

I hope that I can live up to what John Hagel calls for: being that new kind of entrepreneur. One of the first steps for me is to apply Quiet is the New Loud Attitude.

Have a great long weekend!

PS. My headline ‘Quiet is the new loud’ is actually album name of a Norwegian indie band Kings of Convenience.

Entrepreneur again. How did it happen?

I wrote this piece, describing my background, already a couple of months ago…when I first tried to start blogging. However, I was then too busy to do it. But finally, the blog is now out – and here are the few lines I wrote about my entrepreneur background.

I like the word entrepreneur. Many associations come to my mind. What is an entrepreneur? Wikipedia defines it as: “…the type of personality who is willing to take upon himself a new venture or enterprise and accepts full responsibility for the outcome” and “a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome”.

I wasn’t born in a family of entrepreneurs, but I suppose that some of my basic characteristics fit in with the requirements. I love to research and build, I am strongly for genuine team work, and I love to see a clear connection between the sweaty moments and the results, very rewarding. The continuous idea creation & iteration is fun. On top of that, the struggle on how to succeed in the execution is a challenge I’m willing to take – definitely the hardest part.

Entrepreneur x 4

This is the fourth time I am an entrepreneur. My first time in the 80’s was related to after-marketing of the IBM hardware (!), kind of recycling business for those huge equipments, mainframes & storage units – very international environment and me being very young at the time I learned a lot from my colleagues around the globe.

The second time for an entrepreneurial move was when I lived in Sweden. Year was 1997, me, my ex-husband and our two children moved to Stockholm. At that time I worked for an international software company IBS, but very soon I decided to study instead. So I combined both, started my M.Sc. studies at Stockholm University & Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan – and ran my own company aside.

The third time was in 2003. I had moved back to Finland from Sweden and started to work for a Finnish software company Efecte. I was fully acting like an entrepreneur even if I was just a minor shareholder. The team spirit was exceptional and I fell in love with IT Service Management (ITSM). How normal is that can be discussed! Almost six years of hard work and great moments. The company grew a lot and very fast, and as very often it was time for major changes which led further to the fact that it was time to start something new.

The end of the year 2008 was a major decision point for me. I traveled to Thailand all by myself, in order to do some thinking. Wonderful country & trip. The very day I came back I got a call from the founder of Efecte, Jaan Apajalahti , and very soon all was set. This time I would build something new together with Jaan and the loveliest of all business angels, Jukka Kosonen. In April we had the entire founding team setup ready, and the work really could start.

My new baby

Our new start up, Sopima, was founded in early 2009. A lot of excitement and a wonderful feeling of being along from the very beginning! And I made this decision in a minute – no, 30 seconds – with no hesitation. We are building something very special, with the latest technology, with the greatest of partners.

So this is what I’m doing at the moment. In this blog I will write about the road trip I have just started. Among other stories of my daily life and interests.

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