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    Entries in Entrepreneurship (2)


    The Best Superpower Ever

    (Note: This post originally appeared over on Medium under a slightly different title).

    With the latest reboot of the venerable Superman franchise set to hit theaters this Friday, it got me thinking about the age old question of, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” I’d like try to settle that question once and for all. Now before you bounce away to some other post thinking this is just some comic fanboy blowing smoke, hear me out. The best superpower in the world is empathy. Why empathy? Why not flight, or invincibility, or super speed? Because empathy is one of the great unifying forces of humanity that has the power to unleash not only the best in yourself, but the best in others as well.

    Empathy certainly isn’t the sexiest superpower out there. “Empathy Man” doesn’t really roll off the tongue, and I doubt that narratives about heroes gaining a deeper understanding of their conflicted nemeses while engaging in truly meaningful dialogue would move much copy. However, there really is one powerful argument as to why empathy stands above the rest: empathy is the one superpower within everyone’s grasp. It’s slightly unrealistic to expect that I will be able to shoot lasers from my eyes in my lifetime (hedging my bets there), but it is completely realistic to expect greatness in every one of life’s pursuits if I develop my empathetic superpower. is completely realistic to expect greatness in every one of life’s pursuits if I develop my empathetic superpower.

    Engaging anyone with a highly trained empathetic response allows desired outcomes to come to fruition faster. It can be disarming, charming, and make you seem downright prescient. You will have the ability to foresee needs, potential biases, roadblocks, and bridges over what might, at first blush, appear to be intractable problems. You will be a communication ninja…err superhero.

    It is the North Star by which the most talented and innovative businesses navigate, a moral compass directing all to mutual success.

    Empathy also dictates success in today’s business climate more powerfully than many would imagine. Granted, in the backwash of the Great Recession with Wall Street rising to record heights while too many still haven’t seen any hint of recovery, it’s hard to imagine such a scenario. But I would venture to say that empathy is at the very core of the world’s best companies. It is the North Star by which the most talented and innovative businesses navigate, a moral compass directing all to mutual success. Others with a deeper knowledge of global economics hold similar views. Empathy is a skill which far too few focus on in the ultra-competitive world of 21st century business. What some people might actually construe as a weakness, in reality, is just the opposite when it comes to a highly calibrated sense of empathy. These days there are even new neurological studies being performed on groups of mirror-touch synaesthetes with the sole purpose of discovering what can be learned from these “hyper-empathizers” and applied to the rest of us in our efforts to hone this skill. The empathetic among us will consistently outperform the rest in product development, sales, services, and any other aspect of business due to their sixth sense of human understanding.

    Deftly navigating the emotional landscapes of customers, coworkers, partners, investors and family will have them thinking you really are Superman(woman). And who knows, they might be right.



    A Big Sky Gets Bigger - MTIE Day 2012 Recap


    Rob Irizarry already did a wonderful job of summing up the day’s events (and had a better seat for pictures), so I will just touch on some things that stuck out in my mind from the all-star lineup.

    The day kicked off with a video address from RightNow’s Greg Gianforte. Bottom line - it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds when you’re starting out and/or running an existing business. We will all likely find ourselves focusing, at one point or another, on some absolutely important, but non-critical, aspects of running our business.  This type of misdirection can be extremely draining on your energy as a founder – especially in our new digital age. The “always on” mentality coupled with a thousand different distractions from social media channels, your next ad campaign, your next hire, that open intern position,  etc. can, at a minimum, dilute your service/product focus, and in the worst case paralyze you. Be aware of this, because at the end of the day, as Greg noted,

    “You’re either making bullets, or selling them.”

    Period. You won’t even get a chance to make any of those other calls unless you’re developing the best damn product you can, shipping it, or lining up clients who want it. If you’ve got a great team (which everyone reading this should view as critical), DELEGATE. That’s why you surrounded yourself with them in the first place, right? If you’re flying solo for the time being, don’t get caught in the weeds. (And you better be recruiting your team)!

    Lisa Stone? Not much to add…total rockstar, explained at length in Rob’s post and the Missoulian interview. What I will say, is that she took pains to illustrate the importance of the “active social media female consumer” in virtually any business you’re planning today.  Granted, you and your product niche might not be geared at this specific market segment, but you better keep them in mind when you’re developing the business plan. Stats being kicked around would indicate that the data absolutely point to this demographic controlling the purse strings and time spent online in most households, most places…all over the world.

    The morning breakout conversation on digital influence focused heavily on the importance of “getting found on the web.” Use all the free media avenues at your disposal, along with the free analytical tools for your website and social channels to help get you there.  Because personal discovery is always more fun (and I don’t have time to delve into each service thrown out there), here are a few tools, SEO and otherwise, that the panel and audience referenced:

    Dr. Cameron Lawrence’s talk during the lunch session was absolutely invigorating.  Sure, there are a lot of people talking about the various ways we might engage the youth of today and more efficiently develop tomorrow’s global citizens, innovators, instigators, and thought leaders, but it sure is a pleasure seeing someone doing it right in your backyard. The pilot program he is forming at the University of Montana School of Business specializes in the cross-pollination of bizdev and CS disciplines, as well as others. This is fantastic – and sorely needed. I’m a UM alumnus, myself, so Cameron’s talk really resonated with me.  I can speak from my own experience as an undergrad on campus that, had a prof like Cameron come into my world during my first few semesters, it would have lit the proverbial fire under me to think even more outside the box than I like to give myself credit for.

    Keep an eye out for Dr. Lawrence's acolytes running amok, changing the world in the next few years.

    I would encourage UM administration and faculty to collaborate and give his program room to run.  The ROI on what he’s doing is unfathomable.  Get on board.

    The post-lunch session was a treat. What started out as a stellar Elke Govertsen speech on overcoming obstacles, morphed into a real-world demonstration of the points she would have covered.  Anyone who has seen the modern day ninjas of the parkour movement in action, online or otherwise, can attest to the agility, balance, and improvisation needed to navigate their environment.  As it happened, we had the crew from Unparalleled Movement on hand to give us a taste of turning obstacles into opportunities. (I actually had a pretty good seat for this demo).


    During our afternoon breakout session, there was one question from the audience for the combined digital influence/innovation panel that stuck out in my mind.  The question:  “Do you ever unplug?”

    Super cool to hear the answers from all 11 panel members  – I had my informal count break down as follows:

    “Yes. I hate it.” – 1 person

    “Yes. I plan it.” – 5 people

    “No. I’d like to, but no. I never turn off, if I don’t have to.” – 5 people

    The capper on the afternoon was delivered by Dr. Alex Philp in the closing keynote…this guy is a force of nature.  He began by refusing the mic, and finished by showing us all why he didn’t need it in the first place.  Alex’s key points on entrepreneurship and innovation are laid out in the following quotes:

    • “It’s about not knowing when to quit.”
    • “It’s about partnerships.”
    • “It’s about hope.”
    • “The smartest thing you can do as an entrepreneur is reach out, get help, network.”
    • “The single greatest tragedy in the history of Montana, is the loss of its people out of state.”
    • “I detest mediocrity.”

    Amen, brotha’. Couldn’t have said it better myself.