Start-up land is full of posers

Startup-land is full of posers

Do you really understand disruption?

Professor William P. Barnett was one of the first academics to examine Jack Ma and Mark Zuckerberg as examples of nonconformist entrepreneurs who were willing to take the risk and buck the trend, amidst the failure of Myspace and restrictive Chinese regulations. His research has shown that the highest return ideas are often the least supported. He says, “It’s much riskier to do what’s unpopular and very likely fail. But if you don’t fail, you’ll probably be considered a genius and become a big success.”

William P. Barnett is a professor at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, on Business Leadership, Strategy and Organizations. Author of 39 published research papers, Professor Barnett is an expert in what makes people and organizations competitive. On his blog, “Bill Barnett on Strategy” the Stanford professor discusses why some companies are more competitive than others, and why some people get ahead while others do not. Barnett examines disruption, entrepreneurship and competition by reflecting on real-life case studies.

In Why You Don’t Understand “Disruption” he suggests that if you really want to understand disruption, you should go where people are breaking the rules. “Disruptions come from startups who break the rules of the game”; highlighting an example that it was actually in 1996 when a group at Kodak’s Brazil headquarters in Sao Paolo first came up with the idea of sharing digital photos with a designated audience. It didn’t shatter anyone’s worlds until Instagram was born in 2010 and Facebook acquired it for US$1 billion two years later. The problem herein, “is not Kodak’s ability to innovate but the poor fit of organization to the digital business…They were ill-suited organizationally.”

Being adaptable and actively avoiding complacency seems to be the message here. When the logic, direction and technology of the business need to be reconsidered, “it requires organizing for a new logic and organizing in new ways requires that you forget the successes of your past.”

Barnett’s latest research examines entrepreneurship – namely, how to spot authentic entrepreneurs versus those that are posing as part of the trend. The “real” entrepreneurs, he seems to suggest, are the ones who enter the market, even if it’s not popular to do so. In “How to Recognize an Authentic Entrepreneur” he points out how entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are the norms of the culture and “in places where entrepreneurship is all the rage, you can’t tell the authentic entrepreneurs from the posers”. 

Professor Barnett will be presenting a limited capacity workshop at WORLDWEBFORUM 2019. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to learn from one of Stanford’s most respected professors.