Thursday, October 8, 2020

Charles Beard: Historian Entrepreneur


[Author’s note: This essay was intended for Innovation on Tap but was cut for length—and as part of a (losing) debate I had with several editors who did not see Charles Beard as an entrepreneur.  I took the position that if Lin-Manuel Miranda is an entrepreneur, attracting a new audience to Broadway by combining the Founding Fathers with rap, then Charles Beard was an entrepreneur by selling a boatload of books to Americans who never thought to measure the creation of the Constitution against economic interest and greed. I continue to believe that intellectual innovation is as important as social or technological innovation, but that belief didn’t do much to get Beard his own chapter in Innovation on Tap.]

In a nation whose sense of identity comes not from geography, ethnicity, or religion but from a set of ideals, history is a high-stakes proposition. 

Even today, America’s Founding Fathers sit in influential positions.  Twenty-first-century citizens wonder, for example, what Jefferson and Hamilton might think of our national debt, campaign finance laws, and healthcare reform.[1]  Would Washington endorse military activity in the Middle East?  Would Madison allow handguns on the streets of Manhattan?  

Invoking the voices of 250 years ago is a business fraught with peril because challenging America’s Founders tend to challenge Americans’ sense of identity. 

That makes what Columbia University historian Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948) brought to market in 1913 not just an important innovation, but perhaps the most influential history book ever written in America.[2]

Monday, August 17, 2020

Answer the Note: Lessons from Ben & Jerry's and Warren Buffett

I was struck by a letter printed on Sunday in The New York Times Magazine from Andrea, 37-years-old and living in London.

Andrea grew up in Cancun and loved Ben & Jerry's ice cream so much that he "wrote to them (in my 7-year-old nonnative-English) to let them know I had the best idea: They could add chocolate syrup in a little plastic bag to their ice cream."

Much to Andrea's surprise, the company responded, saying his "idea sounded delicious, but not great for the environment.  They taught me a great lesson," Andrea added, "(and gave me coupons!).  Such a lovely company and lovely people, caring for all their customers, even if they lived in other parts of the world, or were 7-year-olds."

Thirty years later, Andrea credited Ben & Jerry's with encouraging him to think about corporate values and the environment.

His letter was a reminder of my interview with Sweeten CEO Jean Brownhill for Innovation on Tap.  

Friday, July 31, 2020

"Innovation on Tap: The Movie", Podcasts, and Guest Posts

"Innovation on Tap" was awarded the 2020 Silver Medal in the
"Entrepreneurship and Small Business" category
by Axiom Business Books
This post features a collection of excerpts, guest posts, reviews, videos, podcasts, interviews, and book-talks related to Innovation on Tap, which was published in October 2019.

The book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Greenleaf Book Group, and Porchlight (for bulk purchases), and is available in hardcover, Kindle, and Audible.

Innovation on Tap
received a silver medal for "Entrepreneurship and Small Business" in the 2020 Axiom Business Book Awards, was a finalist in the "Business and Career" category of the 2020 Independent Book Publishers Association awards, and was longlisted for the Porchlight Business Book Awards in the "Innovation and Creativity" category.  

In July 2020, Innovation on Tap became an Amazon Bestseller in Business, Technology, and Innovation categories. 

Also available, free of charge, is a special set of notes prepared for entrepreneurs, business class instructors, and book groups that explore the leadership and innovation issues presented in the book. See Special Notes for Entrepreneurs here.


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The video below is a 30-second summary put together by Booksplainers.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Favorite Insights from “Creation in a Time of Disruption”

Our recent virtual panel—“Creation in a Time of Disruption: How COVID-19 is Driving Innovation”--brought together three of the talented entrepreneurs featured in Innovation on Tap. Brenna Berman, Jean Brownhill, and Brent Grinna are each leading their organizations through this difficult period of pandemic and social unrest, and each was gracious enough to carve out time to share experiences and insights.

One of the common challenges mentioned was the adjustment overnight from having mission-based, close-knit, high energy cultures to leading remote workers that ranged from Millennials (suddenly sheltering alone without any real support system) to parents trying to work while taking care of small children or home-schooling. Disruption has reinforced the dual role that work plays in employees’ health and well-being and in the health and well-being of partners, clients, and customers.  All three leaders agree that refocusing on mission helped to re-ground their teams in this unsettled time.

The conversation shifted about half-way through from one about COVID to the George Floyd tragedy and issues of equity and inclusion.  As Brenna Berman said, “The pandemic will be managed and addressed . . . [but] the social justice issue is the one that’s going to take the hard work.” The idea that entrepreneurs can use this moment to arrive at a more just and equitable workplace was a moment of epiphany for me.

The complete video can be found here on the City Tech Collaborative site--and thanks for their sponsorship.  Below, I have chosen just three of my favorite insights (lightly edited for context and clarity) from the 75-minute panel. There is much more, and I encourage you to watch it all. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Tweets for Tweets (2): My Favorite Bird Photos of H1 2020

I managed to sneak three birding adventures in the first half of 2020 before the Coronavirus lockdown in March.  Two were wintertime trips in New England and the third included ten days in Colombia, traveling along the Andes from Cali to Medellin.  We visited the Anchicaya Valley, the Sonso wetlands, Otun Quimbaya, Los Nevados National Park (13,500' elevation), the Reserva Ecologica Rio Blanco, Cuidad Bolivar (for a pair of Speckled Owls), Las Tangaras, and beautiful Jardin.

In all, we saw more than 400 species, most new to me. My head exploded sometime between days 6 and 7 but my fellow birders propped me up and down the mountains, clicking away.  I needed three months, our nightly bird lists, and Merlin Bird ID to identify everything stuffed into my camera.  

Below, I've chosen my favorites pictures from the Colombia trip, preceded by a handful from my H1 local activities.  It's worth saying that North America is down 3 billion birds since 1970, much of the loss due to habitat destruction. Two-thirds of the remaining species are threatened by climate change. Industry manages to kill more than a billion birds annually.  To add to these human-made catastrophes, the Trump administration is working to gut the100-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. If this treaty is reinterpreted as the Department of Interior would like, industry would be "freed from legal liability even if their actions result in the predictable, avoidable, and massive killing of birds." I'm hoping the string runs out before this reinterpretation is approved. 

Anyway, from New England:

It wasn't a big winter in New England for Snowy Owls, but a few graced our presence. Snowy Owls are the Beyoncé of the local birding kingdom; when one is spotted, an adoring crowd quickly assembles.