Wednesday, May 10, 2023

How can cities encourage entrepreneurship and innovation?

As big companies shrink their workforces, cities have to work harder to support and promote economic growth and good jobs. Luring companies away from other cities is a zero-sum game. That's why cities have to get serious about leveraging the talent and imagination of all their own residents. Entrepreneurs develop new business ideas, create jobs, help each other, and inspire creative and economic resurgence.  

There are many ways to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. Here's ChatGPT's menu of 10 ways your city can foster a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem:

1.       Establish Supportive Infrastructure: Cities can invest in creating a robust infrastructure to support entrepreneurs and innovators. This includes providing access to affordable office spaces, co-working spaces, research and development facilities, and technology incubators/accelerators. These spaces can facilitate collaboration, idea exchange, and access to necessary resources.

2.       Foster Collaboration and Networking: Encourage networking events, workshops, and conferences that bring together entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and industry experts. Creating platforms for collaboration enables entrepreneurs to share knowledge, form partnerships, and seek guidance from experienced individuals.

3.       Provide Financial Support: Establish funds and programs to provide financial support to entrepreneurs. This can include grants, loans, and tax incentives for startups, especially in sectors aligned with the city's economic development goals. Facilitating access to capital helps entrepreneurs overcome financial barriers and pursue their ventures.

4.         Develop Entrepreneurial Education: Collaborate with educational institutions to develop entrepreneurial education programs and courses. These initiatives can equip aspiring entrepreneurs with essential skills and knowledge, covering areas such as business planning, marketing, finance, and technology. Workshops and mentorship programs can also help entrepreneurs build their capabilities.

5.       Streamline Regulatory Processes: Simplify bureaucratic procedures and regulations related to starting and operating a business. Reducing barriers and complexities in licensing, permits, and registration processes can encourage more entrepreneurs to establish ventures. Establishing a dedicated agency or office to support entrepreneurs and guide them through the regulatory landscape can be beneficial.

6.       Promote Public-Private Partnerships: Foster collaborations between the public and private sectors to drive entrepreneurship and innovation. Engage with local businesses, corporations, and investors to provide mentorship, funding, and market access to entrepreneurs. Public-private partnerships can leverage each other's strengths and resources to create a conducive environment for startups.

7.       Encourage Diversity and Inclusion: Promote diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship by supporting underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Create programs that provide training, mentorship, and funding specifically targeted at these groups. Encouraging a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem leads to a broader range of perspectives, ideas, and innovations.

8.       Support Research and Development: Collaborate with universities, research institutions, and industries to foster innovation. Encourage the commercialization of research outcomes and provide support for technology transfer and intellectual property protection. Promote collaborations between academia and industry, facilitating knowledge exchange and the development of innovative solutions.

9.       Market the City as an Entrepreneurial Hub: Implement marketing campaigns and branding initiatives to showcase the city as a vibrant entrepreneurial hub. Highlight success stories, local startups, and the overall ecosystem to attract talent, investors, and resources from outside the city. Developing a positive image of the city's entrepreneurial ecosystem can create a magnet effect for innovation-driven individuals and organizations.

10.    Embrace Digitalization: Embrace digital technologies and platforms to facilitate entrepreneurship and innovation. Support the development of digital infrastructure, high-speed internet access, and platforms for online collaboration. Encourage the use of digital tools, such as e-commerce platforms and online marketing, to help entrepreneurs reach broader markets.

By implementing these strategies, cities can create an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship, encourages innovation, and attracts talent, ultimately driving economic growth and development.

Why not send this list to your local city council/mayor/economic development office. Ask how many of these things  they are doing. Then ask how many of them they are doing well!


Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The climate revolution is already here

As regular readers may know, I do a lot of writing on sustainability and climate change for a unique Canadian magazine called Corporate Knights. I am proud to be associated with the world’s flagship magazine of “Clean Capitalism.”

This is an exciting time to be writing about business and sustainability. Right now, we are at the tipping point for renewable energy the clean energy transition. As I wrote in a story earlier this month:

 “A new report from climate statisticians at BloombergNEF (BNEF) says global investment in the low-carbon energy transition totalled a record $1.11 trillion (all figures in U.S. dollars) in 2022 – up 31% in a year. For the first time, global investment in green energy technologies – such as renewable energy, electrified transport and energy storage – has reached parity with the total capital deployed to produce new fossil fuels.

 “Report author Albert Cheung raved about the results, saying, “Our findings put to bed any debate about how the energy crisis will impact clean energy deployment. Investment in clean energy technologies is on the brink of overtaking fossil fuel investments, and won’t look back.”

The best part is, the clean energy transition will not just cut carbon emissions that are choking our planet. It will result in cleaner, greener cities, better health, and lower energy costs.

All we have to do is slap down the oil companies, who are determined to stymie and delay the energy transition until they have sold every ounce of their oil and gas reserves – a prospect that would cook our planet to life-threatening levels.

This week, I had three key stories on the Corporate Knights home page chronicling key aspects of this business/lifestyle revolution.

Companies that invest the most in green growth earn triple the returns

This story chronicled new research that indicates the best stock market returns come from companies actively embracing the clean-energy transition. Corporate Knights’s Sustainable Economy Intelligence database tracks more than 2800 public companies, based on the percentage of revenues and spending they derive from the green economy. In the most recent three-year period, the companies in the SEI’s top 20% outperformed the most prominent index of global companies, the MSCI All-World Index, by a factor of three to one.

Canadian pension funds are starting to embrace the green transition

A new report finds that pension funds’ support for the green transition is growing, but still nowhere near the pace required to meet Canada’s global net-zero- targets. The second annual Canadian Pensions Dashboard for Responsible Investing identifies the latest progress inside the sector, whose investment clout must fuel this transition


Insurance industry failing to warn clients of climate risks

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) says that due to the increase in extreme weather events driven by climate change, Canada is increasingly becoming “a riskier place to live, work and insure.” Translation: Prepare to pay more for property insurance. But I wrote that insurers aren’t doing much to warn Canadians about these impending risks. “We have to do a much better job of elevating this issue,” says IBC VP Craig Stewart.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

“7 reasons why AI will never write as well as you do”

Yep, here's another lazy blogpost generated by the ChatGPT artificial intelligence tool. So many organizations and businesses are using AI to write create content now that I was curious how the system would assess its own potential. 

So I asked it: "Write an essay with 7 reasons why artificial intelligence will never write prose as well as a human being."

As you will see, its answers are lifeless and repetitive. If I had asked for 15 reasons, I suspect it would not have covered any new ground.

Still, if the rise of AI results in a new respect for human creativity, imagination, insight and humour, I think it's a worthwhile exercise. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made remarkable advancements in recent years, but it still falls short when it comes to writing prose that matches the quality and creativity of a human being. Here are seven reasons why AI will never write prose as well as a human being

1.  Lack of Emotions: Prose writing is an emotional and creative process, and AI lacks the ability to understand and convey emotions in writing. A human writer has the ability to tap into their own emotions and experiences and use them to add depth and meaning to their writing.

2.   Inability to think abstractly: Human beings have the ability to think abstractly, to consider philosophical and ethical questions, and to imagine new worlds and characters. AI, on the other hand, lacks the ability to think beyond what it has been programmed to do and can only produce writing that is limited by its data set.

3.   No Cultural Understanding: Human beings bring their own cultural experiences and perspectives to their writing, which adds depth and meaning to their prose. AI, on the other hand, does not have the ability to understand culture, and its writing is limited to the data it has been trained on.

4.   No Originality: AI can generate writing that is based on patterns and data it has been trained on, but it lacks the ability to create something truly original. Human beings, on the other hand, have the ability to be creative and imaginative, producing writing that is unique and original.

5.   Lack of Ambiguity: Prose writing often contains elements of ambiguity, and human writers are able to use this to add depth and complexity to their writing. AI, on the other hand, is limited by its programming and can only produce writing that is straightforward and lacks the subtleties of human writing.

6.   Inability to Evoke Empathy: A key aspect of prose writing is the ability to evoke empathy in the reader. Human writers are able to do this by tapping into their own emotions and experiences and using them to create characters and situations that the reader can relate to. AI lacks the ability to understand and convey empathy in its writing.

7.  No Personal Connection: Human writers often bring a personal connection to their writing, whether it be their own experiences, beliefs, or values. This personal connection makes their writing unique and adds depth and meaning to their prose. AI, on the other hand, does not have the ability to form a personal connection to its writing, and its prose will always be limited by its programming and data set.

 In conclusion, while AI has made remarkable advancements in recent years, it will never be able to write prose as well as a human being. The emotional, creative, and cultural elements that make human writing unique are simply beyond the reach of AI.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Five Top Reasons for Business Failure

So I asked ChatGPT today, "What are the five most common reasons for the failure of small businesses?"

Here they are.

The AI platform strikes me as being much like a lot of consulting firms I know: It knows what all the problems are, but has no idea how to fix them.

Also, it spelled "differentiation" wrong.


Five Top Reasons for Business Failure

1. Lack of capital: Many small businesses fail because they do not have enough money to cover their expenses, especially during the early stages of the business. This can be due to a lack of investors, loans, or savings.

2. Poor management: Small business owners often lack the experience or knowledge needed to effectively manage their operations, which can lead to poor decision-making, lack of organization, and financial mismanagement.

3. Insufficient market research: Starting a business without conducting proper market research can lead to a lack of understanding of the target audience and competition, resulting in poor sales and ultimately, failure.

4. Poor cash flow management: Small businesses often struggle to keep track of their cash flow, resulting in unexpected expenses, such as unpaid bills, that can lead to financial collapse.

5. Lack of differentiation: Many small businesses fail because they are not able to differentiate themselves from their competitors, resulting in a lack of customers and revenue. This could be due to a lack of unique products or services, or poor branding and marketing.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

7 communication habits every business leader should be working on

1.    Active listening: This means giving your full attention to the person speaking, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback to ensure that you fully understand their message. Active listening helps to build trust and respect, as it shows that you value the other person's perspective.

2. Clarity and conciseness: Being able to articulate your ideas and thoughts clearly and concisely. This means being able to express yourself in a way that is easy for others to understand, and being able to convey your message in a way that is appropriate for the audience.

3. Adaptability: Being able to adapt your communication style to different situations and audiences. This is important as it ensures that your message is received effectively.

4. Nonverbal communication: Being aware of the nonverbal cues that you are sending, including body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Nonverbal cues can have a significant impact on how your message is received, so it is important to be aware of them and to use them effectively.

5. Conflict management: Being able to manage conflicts and disagreements in a constructive way. This means being able to identify and understand the underlying issues, and to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties involved.

6. Empathy: Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are communicating with. This helps you to understand their perspective and to tailor your message accordingly.

7. Leadership: Being able to lead a team effectively. This requires the ability to clearly communicate goals and expectations, and to provide feedback and support to team members. Good leaders also need to be able to create a positive work environment, where team members feel valued and respected.

(Note: I did not write this blogpost. I asked ChatGPT the question, "What 7 habits should business leaders develop in order to communicate more effectively?" The AI algorithm did the rest.)

(I find this article written, in a dull, simplistic Grade 4 style. Some people will tell you that's the best way to communicate. but I disagree. Yes, clarity is important, but sharing information effectively and memorably requires more than simple declarative sentences: e.g., vary your sentence structure and rhythm; use more vivid, direct language; and share examples of the issues you are talking about.)

The AI platform fails my first rule of communication: "Never Write a Dull Sentence." 

Still, I'd give the program a grade of B- for this article. What would you give it?


Thursday, January 05, 2023

Entrepreneurship is not a job or a business, but a way of seeing...

Quora.com, the crowdsourced question-and-answer website, asked me to take a crack at answering their question, "What are the signs that indicate that entrepreneurship is the best way of living for us?"

I don't know where that question came from, but I took a crack at it. 

What do you think? What would you add? 

Profile photo for Rick Spence

Entrepreneurship is about living life in service to others, using tools such as hard work, innovation and personal expression. It takes passion to be an entrepreneur - there is no 37-hour workweek, no consistent quitting time. But you get to solve the problems you want - for the people (market) you serve - in whatever way best fits your education, skills and values. In other words, when you do what you love to do, it rarely feels like work!

Not every day will be perfect. You’ll face problems, setbacks and heartaches. People will let you down. But this can happen to anyone, especially those who work for other people or big corporations. Of all the ways there are of making a living, entrepreneurship is the one that most insulates you from having to work with people you don’t like or in conditions you abhor.

As you become successful in one area, you will see other problems to solve and spot new business opportunities. Entrepreneurship is not a job or a business, but a way of seeing… a way of life. Your challenge will be to manage all of your ideas. But when you put your heart into our work, you attract like-minded people, with similar values. And they will help you meet the challenges you have set for yourself - and give you the strength and resources to tackle new ones.

Entrepreneurship is hard work. But it offers choices, rewards creativity, and will take you places you can’t imagine yet.


If you enjoy dreaming up new ideas, finding new solutions, helping other people, working very hard, and being your own boss, you’ll find entrepreneurship provides everything you need for a creative, prosperous and rewarding life. 

Monday, January 02, 2023

New Year, New Words

Happy New Year 2023!

To ensure this year doesn't ski into the mediocrity of the past few years, I have adopted three words to guide my priorities in 2023:

Care.

Dare.

Share. 

In longer words: 

* Work with passion. Do what matters to you. Change something for the better.

* Think bigger. Take more (smarter) risks.

* Invite more people into your sphere, and ensure that all share the resulting benefits and impact. 

Former Toronto-based entrepreneur Kunal Gupta (Polar Mobile, etc., now living and working in Portugal) has gone me one better. He chooses just one word a year to serve as his North Star and guide the ways he approaches life. Last year, his word was "Open." (You can read here how that worked out for him.) For Kunal, this year's word is "Build."

Kunal has also asked cavassed other entrepreneurs and leaders to identify the words most meaningful to them. If you're looking for a Word of the Year, (or maybe even three), you're bound to find your North Star on this list. 

Acceptance
Action

Authentic

Awareness

Balance

Bold

Breathe

Care

Change

Commitment

Communication

Compassion

Confidence

Connection

Control

Courage

Create

Discipline

Equilibrium

Explore

Faith

Fearless

Fit

Focus

Form

Fortitude

Freedom

Fun

Generosity

Giving

Grace

Gratitude

Grounded

Growth

Harmony

Heart

Humility

Integrity

Joy

Learn

Lightness

Love

Mastery

Open

Ownership

Partnership

Play

Positive

Presence

Relationships

Relax

Respect

Responsibility

Self Love

Serve

Sincerity

Simplify

Surrender

Thoughtful

Truth

Trust

Understanding

Union


Which word is your favourite?