I had the privilege to talk to David McCourt, author of Total ReThink: Why Entrepreneurs Should Think Like Revolutionaries, about entrepreneurship and the way business leaders have needed to pivot in the middle of the current pandemic. Below is our conversation.
Jon Dwoskin (JD): David, I’d love to talk about current events and its effect on businesses and entrepreneurship. Mind discussing the pivots necessary for entrepreneurs during a time like this?
David McCourt (DM): In business, and in life, everything is changing fast, and now due to Covid-19, even how we behave. However, our ways of thinking and making decisions have changed little since the industrial revolution, but the problems we now need to solve are entirely different.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already caused drastic shifts in our economy and changed the landscape indefinitely for entrepreneurs. To survive and thrive in these unchartered waters, entrepreneurs must open their minds to a Total Rethink, embracing a revolution in thinking and behavior to meet the challenges that now face us.
Buckminster Fuller said it best: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
JD: Let’s talk about entrepreneurship. I know your book discusses that, so why not lay it out for us? Better yet, give us a basic synopsis of your book, the highlights.
DM: The question of whether true entrepreneurship can be taught or if it needs to be in your DNA can sometimes miss the point. I believe there are four essential steps every person must take if they want to think and act like a revolutionary entrepreneur.
- Visualize the Future
Most people live in the present and try to work toward the future one day at a time, taking tiny cautious steps, improving things incrementally. It’s been a survival technique the human race has used throughout our evolution, but it may not be enough to save us from the dangers that lie ahead in the near future or to seize the enormous opportunities that technological progress is making possible.
If you want to be a game-changer and really make a difference, then you have to visualize the future that you want to live in. You have to imagine yourself already being there and then look back so that you can picture the route by which you are going to get there. Work out what has to change to make your dream a reality and then construct a plan for making that change come about.
2. Start a Bottom-Up Revolution
Being a revolutionary is the most exciting thing in the world, but only if the revolution results in genuine and beneficial change for the majority, creating a new way of doing things or a new way of thinking about things. There is no point in destroying the status quo unless you have something radically better with which to replace it.
In this technological revolution, one of the most exciting opportunities facing entrepreneurs is to connect, empower and promote people in the world who remain underserved. We often hear of the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-nots’ in society but the irony is that some of the greatest entrepreneurial potential exists in the ‘have-nots’. Entrepreneurs who can successfully harness and mobilize this group and level the playing field have the potential to make the biggest impact not just in business but in societal change.
3. Work on Your Strengths, Forget Your Weaknesses
The paradox here is that when you are young everyone tells you to “work on your weaknesses”, but those weaknesses, almost by definition, can only be improved by a small, incremental amount, while you can improve upon your natural strengths almost infinitely if you go about it the right way. You can easily see the result of that sort of single-mindedness in all the top sports where kids are taken off and trained relentlessly to compete in one particular event, whether it is baseball, football or tennis.
This need for obsessive practice and honing of your strengths led to the ‘10,000-Hour Rule’ in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, in which he explains that it takes at least that long to become “great” at any expertise. Gallup research also estimates that about 1 in 10 people possess a natural talent to be able to manage other people and that organizations appoint the wrong people to management posts about 80% of the time. That’s not just bad for business, but it breads inequality in our society.
Working hard to develop your talents and what makes you special could end up making the difference. You might never know the depths of your potential if you don’t dedicate the time to your strengths.
4. Take Risks and Grasp Opportunities
Mark Twain summed it up: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
I find that now, in my sixties, I am acting more like I did when I was 25 than when I was 45. In the middle of my career I was employing 20,000 people. I had a company jet, a yacht and all the trappings of success that are expected in the corporate world, and they were using a great deal of my energy.
Keeping your risk profile as if you are just starting out leaves you with much more energy to think creatively and continue taking big gambles for big rewards.
It is never too soon to start your first creative entrepreneurial endeavor but take advantage of the energy and courage of youth. Remember, the whole world is your oyster. The best opportunities may be a long way from home but don’t allow distance or cultural differences to discourage you.
In our current landscape, David’s words are true for not only entrepreneurs but also every business leader. Being able to think like a revolutionary, in revolutionary times, is something every business leader needs. His words ring true and can be invaluable during such an unprecedented time.