Communities Resolving Our Problems: the basic idea
[SUP: Sharing Problems] [THINK: Guidance] [LEAP: Solving Problems]


Startup Planning (Entrepreneurship):

Increasing Economic Health with Flatworld Thinking

graphic symbols for a startup, question mark, light bulb, IF works get money or back to light bulbA quick sketch makes the concept of entrepreneurship rather simple. Find an interesting question. Brainstorm a solution. If the solution and supporting team process works, profit follows. Otherwise, rethink the earlier steps. Teams and communities that nourish the question climate profit the most. The startup toolkit under discussion is rich with options.

The startup plan graphic on the left is the plan for taking a brainstormed solution to a question, determining that many people are interested in that question or problem and turning that solution into a team of people that grows and markets a solution. This entrepreneurial process is also a key component of the CROP model (see above). This is how the bigger problems of our communities and the world are worked on or solved.

The term "profit" also has a much broader meaning than just economic currency, one profits when one: learns; builds a classroom team; create a non-profit organization and so on. The creativity and leadership that this requires are hardly the exclusive property of adults or of a particular location. Enterprises begin as small teams of people that can combine at every scale of human organization including children, adolescents, small groups, non-profits, for-profit organizations and governments. Friedman's "Flatworld" (2005) extends this idea globally as the Internet flattens the obstacles to everyone's immediate access to each other. In turn, knowledge expands everyone's ability to find needs and invent solutions. Most solutions that become products and patented solutions involve growing knowledge of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and Art (making STEAM). Adding the big E of entrepreneurship knowledge creates the handy acronym of STEAM-E.

These STEAM-E thoughts outline key elements of the digital and conceptual toolkit for learning and teaching the processes that birth entrepreneurs of all ages.

  1. The first section provides an overview of the creative and teamwork processes and the supporting digital tools for entrepreneurship.
  2. The second section discusses the rationale for and the social value of people who can initiate startup plans.
  3. The third section addresses the existing elements of entrepreneurship that have long been taught in America's classrooms and the missing links to curriculum that needs to be added to reach critical mass.


A Tentative Toolkit for 21st Century Entrepreneurship

It would be handy to have a software program or Web application for all the elements of entrepreneurship, perhaps titled the Flatworld Processor, with this application providing all the basic steps and resources in one place. It would be best to have a user interface who's degree of difficulty scales to the ability and experience of the user, scaling from the entrepreneurial activities and reading levels of children to those of adults. It would be nice for it to be available in every language. Unfortunately, that doesn't yet exist. The good news is that even thought these features are not combined into a single software product, the pieces for entrepreneurship, for creating for-profit business and other social forms of startups are laying around the Web for anyone to pickup, organize and use. This combining of a medley of components built for the Web is referred to as a mashup. This is similar to the idea of building a collage out of divergent pieces that come from different sources.

The headings below of the pieces of entrepreneurship do not represent a tight top-down sequence but rather a set of topics that each must be addressed at some point, sometimes as prerequisite and sometimes in parallel with other topics. If converted to software, each topic might be a heading in the menu bar, with the items underneath representing the pull-down items that provide knowledge and take action. Are there other ideas that needed to be to added? Contact data is at the bottom of the page.


Encouraging entrepreneurship means encouraging a state of mind and developing a number of personal and social skills. It is one thing to be creative and imagine what is not visible. Daydreamers often stay daydreamers unless some other states of mind are present. It is quite another to make it, whatever it is, happen in the real world. These states of mind or personalities are often referred to as characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Thousands of articles and Web pages offer a wide range of numbers of characteristics from a handful to dozens (e.g., Dadhania, 2012; "Characteristics of a successful entrepreneur", 2012). Psychologists have tried to quantify, measure and prioritize them, from the much cited work by Hornaday (1971) to others (McClelland, 1987; Zhao, Seibert & Lumpkin, 2009). It is interesting to review them and reflect on the degree to which they are promoted by the systems culturally designed for developing human beings, our educational systems. Such reflections should also include some consideration of their relevance to success in many aspects of life.

Considering just three key elements that often appear in these inventories under a variety of labels provides some example of this line of thought: self-confident, risk-taker and assessor and question inventor. A self-confident person has some depth of experience in enough areas that they are self-aware of their abilities to do things, generally multiple things that have personal and social relevance. That self-confidence enables them to be a risk-taker, in trying something new that they discover or or that someone suggests. Self-confidence enables people to fail and see it as an adventure, often an adventure worth taking that yielded important knowledge. Risk-taking, especially among adolescents, is often seen as a significant negative, but what separates the risk-taker from the successful entrepreneur are skills with risk assessment. Risk assessment is the governor on the system that knows and/or continually learns to find the line between excess risk and reasonable risk. Finally, questioning could be seen as a core mental activity of a creative mind, to be able to generate or spot novelty that is appropriate to a situation (Robinson, 2011; . This is not merely the ability to generate questions but to recognize the importance of questions and problems and solutions in what ever scale of community they become part of as potentially opportunities for themselves and others.

Of the classrooms I have observed over many years as a professional educator and periodic university supervisor of beginning teachers, my observations reveal that these three are not generally valued or measured and tracked in the schools in which I have been. More disconcerting is that the educational system generally works against them. Building self-confidence requires staying focused on a set of skills every year over which every child can feel they have bragging rights. The pressure to teach the next idea, the next curriculum content objective for generalized averaged measures of teaching progress keeps the focus off this individualized differentiated need for each child. Equally, risk taking is continually channeled in academic areas for which many children have little confidence, depressing both self-confidence and risk-taking. Questioning, the simple act of inventing a personal inquiry of self-interest, is much praised in the educational literature, but in practice often squelched by the pressures of time, content presentation and a perceived need for control. Similar patterns can occur in families. In short, some of the most important skills in life are not difficult to understand or teach, yet run counter to some deeply ingrained patterns in the nature of schooling as it exists today. These observations also imply that promotion of entrepreneurship begins with thinking about the way teachers, schools and families encourage thinking and provide opportunity for action.

Communication & Composition: Master & increasingly apply digital literacy skills

An effective entrepreneurship is part of a high flow rate of information. You have to listen to many ideas and interact well with many people through increasing mastery of the composition and communication skills 21st century's digital palette. The better your digital skills and knowledge of the problem solving process, the more attuned and global you can become. The better those skills, the better you can study, research and know every detail of the science, technology, engineering, art and/or mathematics (STEAM) that builds and impacts "the plan".

Identify and qualify opportunities: find sufficient patterns of need to justify an organization

Can you find the right question that has sufficient interest in its solution? What system is in place in your community for sharing the questions and needs of each other? There are digital solutions too, dozens of Q&A systems in active use on the Web.

Start a Team

Develop a business plan

A business plan is a road map that provides personal guidance and serves as a persuasive communication seeking contributions from others ("Business plan", 2012).

Raise capital

There are numerous options and combinations of options for finding the money to cover initial and growing costs.

Startup: Find/Serve additional customers/clients

Once find, positive comments and feedback from the first customers are key to more rapid growth.

Managing performance, goals and expenses

There's work to do, a process to design and follow. Numerous software applications to support the flow of work activities are available, and many are online and free.

Repeat the cycle

Once you've figured out how to create one business, it's much easier to do it again. This takes time and capital which requires making decisions about the current effort.

Add your ideas


Rationale: Why Startup Plans and Entrepreneurship

The world is a complex place that is exploding with new information, transitioning to knowledge as the new dominant form of global power and primary accelerant to the pace of change, yet a new and unique form of power (Houghton, 2012). This requires a constant reassessment of what is relevant and where questions and opportunities exist. It requires a constant re-examination of the best strategies for problem discovery and solution. Persistent problems and challenging questions often stand a better chance of solution if the energies of a team of people can be directed at them. Those teams can be referred to as startups. Every organization (school, business, non-profit or team) that persists can be seen as a shared response to some question, problem or questions of mutual community interest.

Culturally we've addressed change in multiple theoretic ways. In economics change can be seen as the forces of "creative destruction", sometimes known as Schumpeter's gale (Schumpeter, 1994/1942). Business systems must either constantly change or end to make room for new organizations tackling new situations. Piaget brings the idea home to biology and educational thinking with his ideas of accommodation and assimilation. Where assimilation is editing an existing model, accommodation is discovering sufficient problems with the existing intellectual framework that the entire mental model must be tossed aside and replaced by something else. The scientific method is a model for investigating and evaluating change through the peer review of others. Everett Rogers thoroughly explored many ideas related to change with his diffusion of innovation theory, noting that the effective spread of an innovation requires sufficient mastery of the idea to be able to further innovate and change the idea itself in order to tailor it to local settings. In evolutionary theory, it is natural selection from variations in new life forms that yield progress. In Socratic dialog it is the question that creates a challenge to existing understandings that provides personal change and growth.

Entrepreneurship is a process of innovation that contributes to the forces for change by weaving change into society's economic sphere, both for tackling persistent problems that become increasingly important in a time of accelerating change and for creating of new organizations that help dismantle those that are no longer effective. Entrepreneurs are people who invent an idea or market an existing invention, leaders who create a team of people to support execution of the idea and then a way to grow an income stream to support that team. Sometimes the teams can be nurtured and grown within an existing organization and sometimes they require the formation of a new organization. However the teams develop, the Net continues to innovate in providing tools that connect team members for a wide variety of problem processing needs. Through such Internet software, team members are no longer forced to be in the same place at the same time. The dawn of the potential for a globally distributed team is at hand.

Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are key players in what Florida refers to as "the rising creative class" (Florida, 2002, 2005). The Internet has interconnected billions of computers that interconnect some 2 billion people with more on the way for the trade of information, products, services and social networking. This digital turn has opened an unprecedented opportunity for business and social entrepreneurship that is flattening regional and global barriers, hence the overstated (Florida, 2005) but still relevant book title, The World is Flat (Friedman, 2005). Educational thought and practice also has noticed and applied the teaming of collaborative learning to many teaching situations, but has yet to extend that line of thought into the entrepreneurial age.

Educators are perhaps a bit shy about embracing entrepreneurship because capitalism fosters advertising which has a reputation for overstated facts and distorted truth and in worst cases, outright lies, inimical to teaching developing minds what is true and right. Important elements of school curriculum spend a bit of time on teaching the rules of evidence and the identification of bias. Product claims are routinely seen as suspect, requiring 3rd party evidence and review from a non-stakeholder for substantiation.

And yet, at its root, entrepreneurship is an act of creative social formation. Bad behavior on the part of a few is hardly justification for schools failing to address head-on a fundamental positive element of business life and world culture, one which is central to a healthy economy. As Florida has noted (2002), effective entrepreneurial settings embrace cultural diversity and accent creativity in all social avenues including the arts and sciences. Creativity is at the peak of Bloom's higher order thinking skills, a range of more advanced thought that has long been pursued as an educational goal. All of these elements support long standing goals of educators and school curriculum.

How we share and grow value with each other by problem solving creates a flow of activity that could also be called a business plan. Software that could help people answer entrepreneurial questions could be considered a kind a treasure map to economic health. Economic health includes not only the prosperity of an individual, but of the community and region within which the participants live. As a business exists to solve problems, the creation or founding of a business depends on an awareness of a community's questions. Whether a business survives or thrives depends on the ongoing awareness of the questions on which a business has focused. A community that a business serves might be a block of homes, a megacity or a global group that has formed online.

What is a community? Florida's work (2002, 2005) has analyzed wealth creation from the perspective of cities, and concluded that they are the centers of population around which wealth has been most effectively built. Friedman's work (2005-2007) has taken a different perspective on community. He noted that as the Web and the Internet have made global communication as easy as the many forms of communication within a small geographic space, the mountains of challenges to cooperating and competing globally have dropped. Social networking tools from Facebook to Ning are teaching billions that community can be built among collections of people living anywhere and locally. The primary remaining barrier is information. Anyone with the right knowledge can reach the global flat space where barriers are gone but only a small percentage of people have learned these skills and this knowledge. Florida's work has looked at the history of wealth creation, which has been focused within geographic concentrations of people. Friedman brought attention to the new opportunities that online concentrations of people can allow. However one connects with a community, a central problem is finding the flat space and learning how to create a business within it. A software application that provides direction and scaffolding for such development would be most useful.

What elements need to be included into the software design? Cities increase people density which yields high frequency contact of people, creations and ideas, which has created the great powerhouse cities of New York, London, Hong Kong and more. But if density was all that was necessary to create highly creative and productive communities, the megacity slums of the world would also be economic powerhouses. Something else is needed, which includes personal knowledge, and archives of intelligence on which to draw.

The Internet also serves to build high frequency global contact of people, creations and ideas. It is the world's "best yet" digital center of knowledge, questioning, intelligence and team building. Florida (2002, 2005) described the world's spiky distribution of resources; Friedman's (2005-2007) flatworld vision pointed to paths that increasingly level them and Rosling (2006-2009) showed that significant global progress has been made in closing gaps in income and health over the last 100 years. However, much remains to be done to raise the level of creative achievement and available resources of many areas of the planet. For the sake of those areas of the world that want to perform at a higher level, it is time to turn Freidman's flatworld concept into a functioning application. Anything this important should be basic enough that it could and should be included school curriculum as well. What both megacity slums as well as many rural areas need is a map, a set of entrepreneurial activities assembled as computer application that any global citizen can use, using the Net to accelerate the building of global teams that connect economic peaks and valleys engaged in solving the world's problems. The question is how to assemble the needed digital literacy and people skills to accomplish this goal.

There are a numerous tools and applications that can be used to assist some of the needs for creating or founding of teams and organizations, but any one of them is insufficient in itself to address the whole process. There are not any attempts to provide a comprehensive entrepreneurial framework in one application that have yet come to my attention. While applications that create media from essays to videos have a well establishing set of steps, procedures and tools, the set of knowledge and process tools needed for creating a business are not assembled as a set of options in one easy arrangement of pull-down menus. With the recognition that the Web has flattened numerous barriers to global trade and organization, building an application for the design and management of a business or some form of organization may be the last great frontier for computer applications. It may be too large a task for one application to address. But in today's Net speak, it is still possible to build one, to create a set of existing tools, to create a mashup that should highlight what is available, what is effective and what still needs creating. To draw on the theme of Friedman's book, this class of applications might be called a" flatworld processor". The "Supportive Application" section above is a beginning towards this mashup goal.

If innovation is the process of applying creative ideas to problems and coming up with solutions, entrepreneurship is the innovative process of building self-sustaining systems that apply solutions to ongoing problems. Every business is or was an answer to a relevant question. When the question is no longer relevant, the business based on it disappears. Flatworld is a metaphor that I've drawn from Thomas Friedman's writings (2005-2007) on the leveling of global competitiveness. The concept represents both a social and technical platform on which anyone with Internet access can organize a group, as well as compete and collaborate globally. However, only a tiny fraction of human activity has become global. In fact, there is considerable evidence that the world is actually quite spiky. Measured by the number of its global participants, Flatworld is a very small but powerful place at the moment, a narrow but increasingly busy road. Despite its seemingly small size, its off-the-scale staggering impact in driving world trade and its challenges are noted in UNCTAD's Handbook of Statistics 2008 and the 2008 Global Trade Report. To operate more openly on this global platform, to widen the road to be more inclusive, to accelerate opportunity, the world needs flatworld processors, mashups of both desktop and webtop computer systems and tools that share a goal of supporting local to global entrepreneurship and the team development that undergirds it.

The software tools to support the creation of global interaction leading to self-sustaining organizations, whether profit or non-profit, are commonly available. These are often free and often Net applications available to all. It is how these tools are being aggregated and applied that makes or does not make a difference in globalization. A key problem of the moment is that these tools are not applied to the problem on a sufficient scale. Where is the social networking site that is pointedly global? Where is the business social networking site with a complete collection of organizational tools that is pointedly looking for global opportunity? Therein lies the opportunity for educational systems to create a mashup of independent Web applications to drive the connectedness needed to fill in the low spots of under-stimulated and under-productive social groups. Our target zones should be the multitude of geographic spots of underachievement, economic weakness and poverty.

The missing ingredient in this milieu is a software application that assists the creation of a plan and its implementation in the same way a computer based word processor or drawing program assists with composition in their media. The ideas here lay out a rationale, outline and resources for entrepreneurship that can be used until an application appears that can integrate into one application the rich resources and potential of a flatworld process. The outline of entrepreneurship activity is well known and such work is so fundamental to local and global health that the creation of such software could play an important role in a range of knowledge building from K-12 social studies curriculum to adult small business support teams to budding entrepreneurs. The thoughts below suggests not only background readings but a sequence of steps useful in making the formation of a team or organization probable, steps that would also be basic elements of a software application that might be called a flatworld processor.As this thought moves beyond concept to implementation by various groups around the world, a series of questions will need answering about flatworld processors. What features and steps are they made of? What is their Web address? Which one is most elegant?

In the meantime, there is much to think about and to use.

Public Schools & The Missing Curriculum: Threading Entrepreneurship Through Out K-20 Education

Entrepreneurship needs some demystifying. Educators are more inclined to see the school curriculum already crowded with meeting the needs of many interests. The thought of weaving entrepreneurship (E) into classroom activities can sound daunting if not impossible, but there is good news for integrating entrepreneurship into classroom instruction. First, many classroom teachers are already engaged in activities that are supportive of entrepreneurship, they just need to learn and teach the new vocabulary words that provide new ways to think about things they and their students are already doing. Second, the Common Core curriculum is putting an accent on long standing curriculum goals that are also supportive of entrepreneurship and supportive of long held views of good teaching and learning. Third, state, national and global developments are creating a supportive climate for entrepreneurship and we know that school curriculum in and of itself is insufficient. Research shows that homes and communities provide 60-80% of a child's education, with schools providing the rest. Good entrepreneurship is also good at building the community that supports the non-formal schooling 60-80% of a child's real world learning.

Best Practice Teaching and Learning Has Always Been Entrepreneurial

Effective teaching and learning has always been entrepreneurial, whose roots in Western culture can be seen as the work of Socrates and the Socratic Method, an all but lost art in the current educational scene. To understand what one is encountering in a reading a story or experiencing in a group of people, it is important to be questioning. To be able to see an opportunity also means asking questions that lead to an understanding of how to solve a problem, a key element of the scientific method. A long standing educational goal that is critical to effective entrepreneurship is a wide range of questioning skills, e.g., the higher order thinking skills that have been an important element of educational philosophy since Bloom and others articulated this thinking in 1956. With the revised version of Bloom's taxonomy putting creativity as the highest level of questioning, this has given an important focus to Common Core curriculum as well as lead to revisionist thinking abourt how to nourish creativity in our classrooms (Robinson, 2011). The challenge has always been to have the question be initiated by the student, not by the teacher. Entrepreneurship begins with a question and and a desire for a solution.

Good teaching has always had characteristics of effective entrepreneurship. A distinguishing characteristic of an entrepreneur is to look not just for an answer to a question of their own personal interest but to have an interest in the questions of others, to look for patterns of needs in the questions and problems that are presented and then develop a plan to meet the needs of a group of people. Effective teachers do this by the hour every day. It is their basis for planning the next week, the next day and the next minute of instructional activity. Teaching entrepreneurship is merely extending this skill to learners, encouraging them to think this way of the world that grows ever wider around them in order to be independent thinkers and learners, a long standing educational goal.

Effective classrooms use teams to build knowledge and solve problems that are characteristic of entrepreneurship. From the days of one room K-8 school houses, when essential classroom management included leading older students of each grade in the teaching of the younger, teachers have been making effective use of teaming. Since Johnson and Johnson's landmark studies into collaborative and cooperative learning were first shared in the 1980's, teaming has become an important element of educational philosophy. Think-pair-share and jigsaw instruction are now common classroom patterns. Classroom entrepreneurs would merely apply this teaming skill to addressing the problems and questions of the larger community, however the perception of community is scaled, whether their classroom, school building, school district or the surrounding community. Entrepreneurs in the adult business community merely look for persistent questions and problems in their community around which solutions can be created, questions and problems of such persistent interest that the real value of the solution is defined by sufficient pay for such solutions. Income provides salaries for the team of those who will persist in this line of work. As organizations grow from just a small group, they become interlocked teams of teams.

Formalizing the encouragement and visibility of questions is a simple classroom activity that many teachers have solved without any digital technology, the creation of a poster or wall of authentic questions the students of their own classroom are pondering. Used wisely, it has broad reaching implications for all content areas, topics and lessons. This has sometimes been called a Wonder Wall or Wonder Web but the design variations are infinite. The transformational opportunity offered schools by the Web and school networks is to make it ever easier to share questions within and across communities within the school building and beyond.


Comments and suggestions are welcomed at the Flatworld Processor blog posting.


Entrepreneurship News & Resources

Current cultural, legal and business news relevant to entrepreneurship helps define the the climate their either encourages or discourages its growth.

Dr. Robert S. Houghton: original 1.0 2004, Version 2.28 Updated October 8, 2013