As the term comes to a close, we have been discussing the plans that each of the founding teams has for their venture. What are your short and long-term action plans as you head towards an eventual launch? During these round-robin discussions, one of the founders expressed with both excitement and some trepidation, “what a wild, chaotic journey it has been so far?”
While I knew the context of the comment was regarding her venture development journey, it certainly reflected our collective thinking about the past year. 2020 can certainly be described in a similar fashion. Since the start of this health crisis, I have had the honor to teach a number of classes from Spring through this Fall, thus providing an opportunity to observe how students react and handle their venture work throughout the pandemic. Last Spring, the students came to class enthused about their venture ideas and looked forward to making progress in the class towards launch. By the middle of February, it was clear that events were changing rapidly and students began to wrestle with a number of personal and venture priorities. For most, current customer discovery and product testing plans were disrupted. Despite these disruptions, many of these students were able to find optional ways to move forward even as timetables were shifting. They demonstrated an ability to adapt and move forward.
By the summer, as new classes began, students were now considering new ventures with the pandemic top of mind. They were in a position to see problems through the lens of a pandemic with the knowledge that the crisis was going to last for some time. They no longer viewed the pandemic as a disruption to their plans but as an opportunity to innovate. Many of the venture ideas throughout the summer addressed mental health and well being new ways to gather and learn virtually, and other products and services that focused on keeping people safe and healthy. In other words, the students were leaning into the problem to help provide solutions for people during this time of crisis.
As the Fall semester started, student ventures were moving towards a variety of problems to be solved, most without a specific focus on the pandemic and its challenges. Now founders were less focused on solving pandemic associated problems directly, but the health crisis was now integrated into their strategic decisions. The existence of the pandemic was baked into their business model, but not necessarily driving specific product offerings. We were now seeing innovation occur within a new normal context.
One major takeaway from these transitioning venture efforts was that we were observing clear examples of resiliency from these aspiring entrepreneurs. These founders demonstrated a strong capacity to recover and adjust their venture activities in light of this ongoing crisis. Those of us who work with entrepreneurs know the important role that resiliency plays in both venture success and founders’ well being.
Resilience is about moving forward even when the situation begs one to take a step back. It is really about your ability to deal with difficult situations, navigate adversity, and make informed decisions about what to do next. Most importantly it is an important path towards thriving as an individual, team, and organization.
For the past few years, I have been integrating the development of character strengths into the curriculum to support entrepreneurial resilience.
As a psychologist and an advocate for positive psychology, I became intrigued by the work done by Peterson and Seligman (2004) on the classification of character strengths and their application through the work of the VIA Institute on Character. There has also been a good deal of research connecting character strengths and resilience. I am convinced, by student reactions to these concepts and their application of this knowledge to their venture work, this is something that we should take seriously.
This strength development work has had a profound impact on many founders and aspiring entrepreneurs. In the next post, I will share with you some of the ways we integrate character strength building into the venture development process. In the meantime, I encourage you to take the survey and receive the basic reporting on your 24 character strengths and those that comprise what you will learn are your signature strengths, your superpowers. The next post will discuss how to apply these character strengths throughout the venture realization process. In the meantime, take the survey and feel free to share your superpowers with me via email or comment on Venture for All social media sites.
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