Only days ago, QUALITANCE hosted the Moonshots LIVE from Bucharest event, an inspiring talk show created by QUALITANCE Chief of Innovation Mike Parsons and documentary storyteller Chad Owen.
For two full hours, we had four Romanian trailblazers in the house:
- Sebastian Burduja, Managing Partner at RISE Consortium, Founding President of PACT for Romania & Co-founder of CAESAR Foundation
- Magda Ropotan, Innovation and Design Thinking Coach
- Ioan Iacob, Co-founder & CEO of QUALITANCE
- Elena Cârstoiu, Co-founder & COO of 4PSA and Hubgets
We listened to their fascinating stories and learned a lot on innovation and design thinking, the hardships of entrepreneurship and the importance of communication, focus, engagement and legacy. Without much introduction, here are the 10 learnings that inspired us the most.
#1 Follow your path, however hard
Knowing that it’s hard to get everything right from the first try, in any circumstance, but most of all as an entrepreneur, you should always improve and keep going. Because sticking to your dream, however hard it may get along the way, leaves room for opportunities. Whether it means changing perspectives or even business models, doing your best to stay afloat holds the door for new possibilities, even in times of crisis.
#2 Train your brain to overcome fear
Just like any other emotion, fear is not hardwired. As a matter of fact, fear is not built-in; it does not trigger and just happens to us. Our brain feeds on past experiences to build fear. So, why not train our brain to give pressure, anxiety or fear a meaning that works in our favor?
When faced with risk taking, a trampoline question like “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” can relieve you from feeling locked-in and spare you from landing flat-faced. It’s a way to trick your brain into trespassing the present and leap into the future, where you can actually find working solutions.
#3 Iterate, learn, innovate
Suppose the answer to the trampoline question is indeed the worst thing that could have happened. In such a case, “What’s next?” should be the question that follows.
Genuine winners pick up from where they left off. Only this time, with new iterations and a flexible mindset. Because it’s in your power to redesign your thinking so as to serve your ultimate purpose. Take word from the authors of “Designing Your Life” and adapt the 3-journey framework to any situation you want to thrive in: (1) Work to improve the things you don’t like; (2) Work as if money, shame, or any other key parameter in your life were not be a barrier; (3) Work imagining you couldn’t do all the things that you can actually do.
#4 Failure is success if you learn from it
Failure often forces us to look at things in retrospect. At the same time, the past is a good place to go to as longs as the goal is to learn our lesson and move on.
However, if revisiting the past is just as an excuse to obsess and lament, you’re better off without it. Because you risk closing yourself off from the present, where you actually need to be – ready to take action and focus on finding the win. The time you waste looking for a backup plan or licking your wounds is the time you could invest in finding a solution. So, try the reverse. Oftentimes we discover that the more action we take, the more we want to take action.
#5 Envision the future
The present is not the only time-frame for finding working solutions. There’s also the future perfect. The future in the past.
You can resort to imaginative thinking exercises, using elements from the present to build future scenarios for your business. Based on such sketches, you can write new stories and innovative itineraries for your business adventure. For instance, you can try imagining what your business will look like when an emerging technology like VR or blockchain becomes mainstream. The accelerated learning curve already proves that this is just a matter of time. So, apply the “What If” scenario to any business context, and you will find solutions to existing problems without falling back on standard, generally accepted methods.
#6 Stay sharp and be engaged
Resilience is not limited to personal life or work. Resilience is equally needed at the level of the civil society. It’s a strong answer to crisis with far more effective results than fatalism and protest.
Even if you don’t see an immediate outcome on a macro-level, even if the social, economic or political context seems to be against you, that’s not reason enough to check out and stop caring. Quite the opposite.
#7 Follow your North star
Innovation starts with a dream and a plan. But as the dream evolves, the plan changes. A common misbelief among entrepreneurs is to assume that changing the plan equals failure – hence, the temptation to bail out.
Let’s not forget that evolution itself builds on change without revoking precedent progress. So, keep the dream in mind, think of it as your North star, and adjust the plan with continuous iteration and agility. Eventually you will get there.
#8 Prototype your dreams
You can leverage proven design thinking principles to build dreams as well, not just products and services. You can use prototyping as an actionable tool to test them, see how they fit your expectations and how you feel about them as they get real.
Whether it’s a business idea or a new way of life you’ve been dreaming of, start taking steady baby steps. Talk to someone who has already turned a similar dream into a reality, or get a job in a business built on an idea you’ve been cultivating. Either way, use small-scale iterations of your dream so that you can actually make it happen.
#9 Communication – let it flow
One of the most important thing in businesses is communication with your team. As cliché as it may sound, efficient communication plays a key role in having a good relationship with your own people.
So, if you want the team to support you in fulfilling the dream at the heart of your business, let work information flow easily among team members, keep it transparent and easy to access, and give them the right communication tools to use it to their advantage.
#10 Leave your mark
Giving back to the world, leaving something behind is usually associated with people who made history in their field. Yet, not all the people who made history entered history books. My point is that greatness comes in all shapes and forms.
Regardless of who you are and what you do, it’s when you do things that go beyond your self-interest that you make a difference and put a stamp on the future. So, do things that matter – not only to you, but also to the people around you. Ironically, doing selfless acts preserves the immortality of your very self. It’s how your existence reverberates through the generations that come after you. In the end, memory is what you are.
At the same time, leaving a legacy is also a matter of balance. In all fairness, if we’re now leading a good life, it’s also due to those who came before us and left something behind, so that we can do better and live better.
Certainly, there’s more to learn from the Moonshooters in Bucharest. For example, the theme of resilience kept reaching the surface of all conversations, however different the business and life adventures of our guests. Click here if you want to view more insights from the show.
You might also want to catch up on:
- Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life written by Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans;
- Lisa Feldman Barrett’s TED talk – You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions – your brain creates them;
- William Gibson, the science-fiction author known for his speculative near-future stories, often quoted on his technology aphorism “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” (The Economist, December 4, 2003)