There was a savanna (ancient wilderness) our ancestors left thousands of years back. And here we are in another psycho-social wilderness. In some ways, it is also reflected in the startup ecosystem. During the next few weeks, we will try to nuance ways for our readers to traverse through the chaos, find poise amidst inner and outer disruption and balance the being and becoming.
“I don’t want a boss”;
“I don’t like my boss”;
“I just don’t have a say in my office”;
“I am tired of office politics”;
“I want my own company”;
“I want to leave behind a legacy”;
“I want to make a lot of wealth”;
“I can play this game better”;
“I want to make an impact”…
This was 2012. I was sitting in an over-lit café. As I was alone, I couldn’t help but overhear conversations from adjoining tables. At some tables they were heated and loud, at others there were secret whispers. At some tables, it felt that the conversation was going nowhere and the participants just wanted to jump and run away!
My gaze fell on a person who was on some sort of wheels. He had few hurried handshakes, quickly exchanged cards, cast a glance at people around, pulled out a notebook and laptop… almost all of it in one swift lightening move… phew!!
I saw a “hurry-cane” right in front of me!
The atmosphere was thick with sounds of a deal being cracked. I overheard about the billions in making…. actually everyone in the room was about to make billions in just a few years!
I soon realized that I may be in some sort of a start-up dating cafe. Romance all round. Excel sheets firing up imaginations. Conviction overtaking fiction and more. High speed `execution’, the underlying theme. Run Run… because now you are an entrepreneur.
There is a peculiar thing if you see someone running. Unless you see it for some time, you are not able to tell whether the person is running towards something or is running away from something.
This interesting stage play got us contemplating on the frivolity of this existence.
Till date, we have had 1200+ long-form conversations with people from all walks of life: business honchos, manager, bureaucrats, politicians, porters, rickshaw-wallah, sweepers, Dean of a Global Ivy league university etc.
The idea was to understand their perspective about the meaning of such myriad existence.
These interactions led us to believe that it isn’t a revolution in start-ups, albeit every startup is a revolution. It is a revolution against something…for something. Sometimes it’s a revolution against the repressed visions and voices, sometimes it’s a revolution for fair economic distribution. Sometimes it is a revolution to create an impact. It’s a market instrument for change.
These observations led to secondary questions.
Why all this commotion? Is it actually leading anybody anywhere? If this is the true nature of start-ups, then will we not end up creating self-consuming monsters whose first victim would be the person giving birth to it?
We realised that there is a brighter side to this cacophony.
For entrepreneurs, it is also an opportunity to develop a better way of life since they end up challenging the old and mundane. If anything, `start-ups’ are the `market’ equivalent of `democracy’ for the `state’ if guided by conscious entrepreneurship and leadership.
Just a few simple questions need to be asked by anyone intending to be an entrepreneur. How do you maintain equanimity amidst the various hurry-canes in yourself and the others around? Have you heard of “values dissonance” or “emotional dissonance” and how do you tread them? In what ways, your organization going to be more humane and just?
There lies the sliver of hope.
We are seeing an emergence of conscious entrepreneurship and leadership. Built on the fulcrum of modern science’s understanding of ancient wisdom, these practices are helping leaders develop self-awareness based meta-cognition and emotional intelligence, which then is firing the right form of motivation and empathy. The aim is to distil right “purpose” of these organizations and channelize their “momentum”. Big Organizations like Google, SAP, Microsoft, LinkedIn and more are looking at ways to make these as key tools.
So, what is your vision of entrepreneurship going to be?