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The Responsible Entrepreneur: How Big is Your Innovation Promise?

Breaking entrepreneurs down into four archetypes and the different nature of tasks to which they apply their innovative energy.

Submitted by: Carol Sanford

Posted: Sep 04, 2012 – 09:50 AM EST

Tags: entrepreneur, social entrepreneurship, innovation, apple, google, oprah winfrey, business, richard branson


By Carol Sanford

What does innovation mean for entrepreneurs growing a business long after the start up bell has quit ringing?

Every newspaper, online or off, had a story about the intellectual property case won by Apple against Samsung along with dozens of pieces analyzing the implications in the last two weeks. The big question looming for these computer businesses is their ability to innovate and to do so in a responsible way while adhering to the rules of patent law.

The Promise of Innovation

The computer industry is imbedded in a larger digital industry that is changing. But that is only part of the change.

Every industry, and business within it, emerges from a society— and how people define relationships and structure them. In the U.S., entrepreneurship is prized highly as a way of rising above everyone else, if you succeed. All but one of the companies mentioned in the headlines last week, for example, is based in the U.S, and come from the structure of success in our society. 

But that is not where it stops.

Each society, which evolves with each generation to some degree, is affected by a slower changing pattern— its culture – although cultures are increasingly becoming comingled.

What is often harder to move are the paradigms and policy frameworks, which tenaciously hold societal and cultural norms in place. The frameworks that get built into institutional mandates and regulations can hold outdated and harmful beliefs and strata consciousness in place even when all reason says it makes no sense.

Women and minorities being able to vote took decades of advocacy and legal changes to allow change. The caste system in India is still imbedded in the school system ensuring servitude for generations to come. Slavery, which is outlawed in Western Constitutions, is as alive around the world as it ever was because of commerce norms and laws.

The Bigger Promise of Entrepreneurship

I think entrepreneurship and innovation are currently being thought of in too small a way. There are rare entrepreneurs who take on, consciously or unconsciously, the evolution of industries, societies, cultures and paradigm frameworks. But they do happen. My new book, out Spring 2013, is speaking to this breed of Entrepreneur: The Responsible Entrepreneur.

I sometimes refer to them as The Big Promise Entrepreneurs because they want to change the world, but not just by innovating for their own business. And not just restricted to one arena of responsibility. 

In the four decades that I have supported innovation and entrepreneurship, I have discovered four entrepreneurial archetypes and the different nature of tasks to which they apply their innovative energy. Here is a breakdown:

1. The Freedom Entrepreneur

Steve JobsThe first is the Freedom entrepreneur, who when imbued with an understanding of The Responsible Entrepreneur, takes on evolving industries. Even though they are all driven by the illusive goal of perfection, they do so always imperfectly and with as many missteps as firm foot plants.

It is about innovation, not predictability. Steve Jobs drew on this archetype most often and changed an entire industry. With further development of his capacity for reflection, he would have gone even further.

2. The Social Entrepreneur

Richard BransonThe second archetype is the social entrepreneur.  This archetype is about conscience; they do so with a flourish and with the utmost transparency. Richard Branson draws on this archetype most often, although he and the other icons I list here are not bound in an archetype.

Branson has sought to change social agreements we have had in place for centuries, especially those about who has a right to succeed and be a contributing part of society, directly through Virgin companies. He also speaks passionately and illustrates the need to shift societal norms in his autobiography.

3. The Reciprocity Entrepreneur

The third archetype is The Reciprocity Entrepreneur. Drawing on this archetype is important when you see the world as needing to be rebalanced in a way that everyone and everything thrives. I call it Oprah Winfrey“the pursuit of wholeness.”

Oprah Winfrey came to understand this need for “all to thrive” as her calling when she became a rousing success in the same year on the big screen (Academy nomination for Sophia in The Color Purple) and on TV (she took control by buying rights to her highly-rated show). What she has done since then, faltering often along the way, is to change our basic beliefs about how the world works.

Her deepest desire is to have every person know that they are not a victim of the world around them, but can be successful on their own terms. And to call out all who seek to block this transformation. She uses education as an instrument to wake up the world to the damage belief systems can do to people and nations.

4.  The Regenerative Entrepreneur

The fourth archetype is The Regenerative Entrepreneur. They seek to make the changes that take a nation’s governing and regulation powers onto a path that is more essential and transformative. They take on the infrastructure like regulation that bounds us up in our current worldview.

Google Cofounder Larry Page is a very quiet Regenerative Entrepreneur. He has sought to change how we allocate the public airwaves through the FCC; to change how ownership of enterprise happens by going with an OpenIPO rather than limiting the shares to big banks and firms who get in early, blocking out small players.

Today, Google is openly questioning whether patent law is outdated. Even though it may not be obvious, Page, using the clout and position of Google, is working on wealth creation by changing the structures that prevent it.

Each of these entrepreneurs took on change with an increasing depth and scale of change. We need them all because each of them is committed to using their business as an instrument of change—whether it be an industry, societal, cultural, or the prison of structure that we create—that may even seem right at the time but holds evolution, toward a better world, in check.

These entrepreneurs grow into being able to engage all archetypes because no one is defined by one archetype. This is not meant to be a test to find your type. It is a test of consciousness.

The stories I referenced in the beginning hold a different meaning for me when I looked at them through the prism of The Responsible Entrepreneur. They make me wonder what Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, and Larry Page were thinking as each of them read the paper today.

I will have more lessons from each of these icons and stories of everyday entrepreneurs changing the world in coming weeks. Meanwhile, sign up for my blog and newsletter to hear more about responsible entrepreneurism through free teleseminars and other programs.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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