April 2009

Social Enterprise 101: Lessons Learned From a Bunch of Jerks

Tucked away in the verdant hills of St Ann, Jamaica, just 30 minutes outside of the tourist mecca of Ocho Rios, is a quaint village with some remarkable lessons to share about entrepreneurialism, job-creation, sustainability and profit-making.

Problem Solving: A Little Help From My Friends

collaboration    How To    Learning    Nonprofit     peer group    Small Business     teamwork

I honed my hiking skills on well marked trails throughout the Northeast. If the weather wasn’t good, I didn’t hike. This didn’t prepare me for trekking the Himalayas in April. Like today’s economy, this was uncharted territory more hostile than I’d ever faced before. 

A Tale of Two Toddlers or How We Learn What it Takes to Be Successful

I was invited to my friend Pam’s house, to bear witness to her greatest achievement to date: the toilet-training of her adorable, but stubborn-as-all-get-out, four-year-old son. She proudly showed me the fruits of her systematic training that included step-by-step posters with gold stickers, progress-tracking charts and dozens of boxed Thomas the Tank Engines trains as rewards.
 
formal and informal learning celebratedBut what was more impressive to me was his younger sister, barely 18-months-old, who, without being coaxed, went to the bathroom all by herself. When I expressed my amazement to Pam, she brushed it off, saying, ”Oh, that was easy. I didn’t do anything. She learned by watching her brother.”
 
So here it is, folks, two toddlers learning two different ways: one through structured or formal learning, and the other by modeling, or informal learning, from those around her. While toileting has been replaced by somewhat more complex tasks in the enterprise environment, the ways in which we, as humans, learn those tasks hasn’t changed much since we were in diapers.
 
The U.S. Dept. of Labor and others confirm the majority of what people do on the job is not learned through formal training. Some studies suggest that only 20 percent of what is done on the job is learned formally. The remaining 80 percent is learned socially, informally or through on-the-job experience.
 
In starting Ventureneer, one of my primary goals was to deliver a new approach to learning that blends traditional, formal instruction with the informal learning derived from peers. The idea is that you’ll use Ventureneer’s content and community to solve problems; request resources and information; seek guidance from others; and, most important, discover how to have the greatest impact to make a meaningful difference.
 
The site is also geared toward a wide variety of learners: those who like to do things by themselves (Self-Directed Help), those who like it done for them (Consulting), and those who learn most effectively with a combination of both (Guided Help and Coaching). A kind of “have it your way” education – a personalized program to learn what you need to be successful.
 
As for incentives…well, sorry, no Thomas the Tank Engine trains for you. You’ll just have to be satisfied with the knowledge that you are getting the tools to create a better-run, more revenue producing and purposeful enterprise.
 
But I’ll think about the gold stickers…