Friday, November 25, 2005

13. Learners as entrepreneurs

One way to foster passionate learners is to think of them as entrepreneurs. As such, there are certain driving factors that need to be in play in order for them to operate properly.

Driving factors for entrepreneurs*
Motivation is one driving factor, propelled by the:
Need for achievement;
- Desire for independence;
- Wish of better working conditions;
- Longing to act like entrepreneurial their role-models;
- Thrill of risk-taking.

An enabling environment is another driving factor involving, for example:
- A vision or sense that motivates the initiator to act;
- Skills and expertise including present know-how plus confidence to be able to obtain know-how needed in the future;
- Expectation of personal economic and/or psychological benefits;
- Access to digital tools of participation;
- Conditions and policies providing comfort and support.

Naturally, the importance of these factors varies for each learner and learning situation. Nonetheless, raising awareness of the driving factors, in-group or on a one-to-one basis, helps boost motivation and identify deficiencies in the enabling online environment.

Need to involve risks
Entrepreneurs are risk-takers by default. Oddly enough, taking risks when converting passion into new possibilities seems to lower the risk as successful entrepreneurs generate more options for themselves than risk-avert people. Could it be that risk-averts are the real risk-takers, as the former are more vulnerable to change than the latter? Change being the only thing we know for sure will happen.

If we are to learn from entrepreneurs, a passionate learning environment needs to involve risk at some level, real or imagined. Not forgetting that passionate learning, just like entrepreneurship, can hardly be taught, as the founder of Body Shop Dame Anita Roddick in the picture above claims. What is possible, though, is to strengthen the enabling learning environment.

Learning about the rules of the game
Viewing online learning educators as first and foremost providing an arena for learners to expand their zone of influence, the challenge is to motivate the learners to not only invest their intellectual capabilities, but also their social being and economic resources, converted into time units, to create opportunities beyond the online classroom. In other words, enthuse them to take risks. In its most straightforward form, it is about inspiring learners to formulate, ask and reformulate, questions that help them learn the rules of the game you want them to play.

Learning as an entrepreneur is to take a personal responsibility in making your passion become your guiding star, drawing energy from your inner self and view slip-ups as an valuable learning opportunity. In fact, “the road to success is to double your mistakes”, if we are to take the advice from the founder of IBM.

* Shane S, Korvereid L, Westhead P. The Quest for Holy Grail: Looking for a Universal Theory of the Motivations and Environmental Influences that Promote Entrepreneurship. Working Paper No. 3024/1991. Bodö Graduate School of Business, Nordland University Centre. In Lordkipanidze M, Brezet H, Backman M. The Entrepreneurship Factor in Sustainable Tourism Development. Draft paper. International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University.

Friday, November 11, 2005

12. Tools of participation

”Tools of participation – that is the new economy. You cannot package an authentic experience. You set the stage and let people script their own dramas.”

Word of mouth only
Those are the words of David Batstone
, an american business entrepreneur, professor and journalist, I heard speak at the SIME ´05 conference. With the Internet we are moving away from information society, dominated by top-down mass-market approach, to an interaction society characterised by participation. Tools of participation are enabling this, expanding rapidly by word of mouth only. In fact, many of the highest valued brands today are not doing any marketing at all. They let the users do it for them.

Creating economic value
David Batstone writes: “The online world, in my humble view, has tapped out its usefulness as a static kiosk. Yes, it's a terrific reference librarian, retail outlet, and one-stop data shop. But the next quantum growth for the Internet will arrive with participation technologies that give us the tools to transform our lives. In truth, the Net as a communications platform has been my sense of its real potentiality all along. It is the first glimpse of an emerging economy. You give me the tools to make my own personal history, to change my life, to feel in a new way, to participate in something authentic, you will own a piece of economic value.”

Examples of enablers
The open source model used for Linux is well known. Over 20 million programmers are jointly developing code together. The free Internet telephone software Skype, with 200 million user (Nov, 2005) and the search engine Google
are other tools of participation. “Internet is reducing the transaction costs and entry barriers in all industries”, says Andrew McLauchglin, chief policy officer of Google Inc. This gives rise to hyper competition, but also enables smaller brands to sell their products. For example, over 700 000 people selling goods and services in the US have e-Bay as their main source of income. CDBaby has enabled some 400 000 independent bands to sell their music.

Online social networking
Other tools of participation are CIWI and Open BC
enabling social networking on line. OpenBC has some 650 000 members mainly in Europe and Asia, available in 16 languages, enabling the members to not only keep track of what their contacts, and their contacts contacts, are doing, but also where they are at a specific moment in time. Speaking about social networking, the online community Lunarstorm is in fact the largest city in Sweden with 1.2 million users, representing 75% of all young kids in Sweden. With 1.3 billion web pages linked to every month, it is as big as the largest online newspaper in India. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit has over 800 000 articles in the US only. Habbo Hotel, a virtual hang-out pixelized as a 5-star luxury hotel, engage 5 million users with an annual turnover of 40 million euros.

Click on the title of this blog (“12. Tools of participation”) to read the whole article by David Batstone