Jennifer B. Davis
"In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is."
- Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

"I could never start or run a company. I don't have the killer instinct. I'd rather observe and criticize those who do."
- said jokingly by a friend (a business strategy professor) at a recent dinner party

Perhaps I am letting this entrepreneurial bug bloom into a full-blown infection, but I have a growing concern about business professionals. That as a group, we don't know much about business.

I think there are some great marketeers out there (I consider myself one of them) that fail to realize the importance of sales channels, innovation, and who have never talked to a customer to find out why they bought and what would make them recommend the product or service to a friend.

There are great product designers, who are still designing products. Widgets who do some function or the other (usually designed by using the rear-view mirror of pre-established categories which can be analyzed by third-party researchers and are supported by big name consultants), but not solutions that fundamentally change industries or have a real meaningful impact on the people who use the products.

There are fantastic accounts, quality managers, documentation control professionals, IT managers, and "do-ers" all over the company that define what "doing the right thing" is for their respective functions, but may miss the mark entirely in terms of understanding how their role fits in to the value chain that customers are willing to pay for.

However, having these guys read a book or attend a presentation where the executives try to define the business levers of the business doesn't quite solve the problem. What people need is real experiential learning. In order to know how to run a business (and most everyone in an organization does to some extent as they influence the outcome of the whole), people should run a business.

I think every academic environment should have an entrepreneurship class where people have to develop a real product and sell it to real customers by the end of the course. Not talk about it. Not read about others (although this can be useful), but really do it.

Google and 3M both have well publicized programs where they let their engineers spent some portion of their time on undirected research and development aimed at bringing new innovations to the company. I am wondering if the same thing couldn't exist in other functions. What if a company's marketing team had to spent 10% of their time marketing a non-profit to learn guerilla techniques and how to write more passionate copy? Perhaps everyone in roles which naturally add more structure and process to the company should spent time in sales roles trying to navigate through those layers of progress once they are entrenched, and likewise, someone in sales had to spend some time helping to design the new product introduction process to ensure quality products at the end of the line.

Entrepreneurism teaches a pragmatism, a sense of urgency (impatience), and prioritization that would be quite a culture shock to many professional business people. Is it "killer instinct," or is it just business?
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