I get a kick out of reading interviews with Andrew Mason, Groupon’s 29 year old CEO. I find him refreshing; he seems to be missing the ego usually so obvious among entrepreneur superstars.
Most people are uncomfortable talking about themselves, which is why they dislike writing resumes and interviewing, but when they are highly successful they rarely admit it. Mason, on the other hand, has no such hesitation, “I’m just not used to talking that much about myself. It feels strange,”
Entrepreneurs, and those who write about them, love to tell how they always wanted to be an entrepreneur and started as a kid by selling whatever to their neighbors. Mason is an exception, “I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur before this,” he has often said, “and I still really don’t. I just like to build things and do things.”
As to planning out his career, “I never really planned my life more than one month in advance. I try to chase whatever I think is the most interesting thing to do at the moment, and if it becomes less interesting, I find something else to do.”
But he must have planned Groupon, right? Wrong. It was actually started as a side effort to support a different social enterprise. “There was a kind of freedom that came with not caring if it failed, and caring primarily that it was something we could be proud of.”
Mason also doesn’t see Groupon mainly as a technology function, “Really, it’s a way to get out of the house, to explore the city—an expensive city—and to spend more time with your friends or loved ones.”
Mason is young and many wonder how he will avoid being a shooting star instead of a major light in the online firmament as has happened to far more experienced CEOs, but I think he has the perfect approach, “I’m hopeful that as long as we continue to think that we suck and try to be better every day than we were the day before, then we can avoid a similar fate.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if more CEOs channeled Andrew Mason?
A great deal of innovation, including those with the potential to change the world, is done not just by entrepreneurs, but internally in corporations.
Fast Company offers a list of what it considers the 2011’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. Some are innovation standards, while others will surprise you, however number 21, DonorsChoose, innovative or not, is a sad commentary on US education.
Innovation, like sex and love is often progressive, with one idea often leading to another. First off, now on the Web, the two have progressed from sex (general and nitch porn) to love (general and nitch dating sites) to infidelity. Obviously, if someone works their way through these sites sequentially then the next needed innovation is divorce, which is provided by Tim McNamara at ClearViewDivorce.
The next three are my personal favorites, because they address my personal needs so perfectly.
Liquid glass looks like a solution to any problem surface that I want smooth and easy to clean.
A new wall panel made by National Gypsum called Thermalcore seems like a great way to cut my heating bills when I finally remodel.
Finally, my office faces my front yard where I feed dozens of birds, a few squirrels and the occasional hawk that stops by for a starling lunch and I enjoy them through three large fixed pane windows. Unfortunately, the birds often crash into the glass, but a German company has solved that problem. I’m replacing the panes with Ornilux.
I once read that potty training is the last time you can actually train human beings and from then on you must teach, which means presenting the information for them to learn.
You never hear the education establishment, politicians or the media talk about training students, they talk about what they need to learn—even though the focus is mainly on what they need to learn to score well on standardized tests as opposed to critical thinking.
Training means “to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction.”
Try that on anyone over two and see how far that gets you.
Business focuses on critical thinking, yet business talks about training—training leaders, training managers, cross training skills.
I think the more conceptual the subject the more it resists training and the more it requires the kind of teaching that leads to learning, which requires an open mind and a willingness to change.