Usually, heroic tales begin in this manner: a protagonist goes on some quest to solve a problem or bring about a change in his fortune; he encounters villains or monsters who would try to side-track him from fulfilling his mission; he fights valiantly and emerges victorious in a spectacularly fashion.
Lovers of classics such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Robin Hood to name but a few will agree that these tales have a hero who embarks on a journey.
No wonder, in 1949, Joseph Campbell, a professor in literature wrote a book titled “A Hero With a Thousand Faces,” in an attempt to analyze the common plot structure of classical folk tales.
What bearing does this have on entrepreneurs? Alon Braun, the author of The Entrepreneur Journey, “A Strategic Blueprint for Market Domination” explores the concept that a fictional hero journey, mapped out by Campbell, might be a blueprint of the journey undertaken by entrepreneurs.
He illustrates the different stages in a typical entrepreneur’s journey using the life of one of the greatest inventors of all time, Thomas Edison.
Perhaps the most popular act associated with Thomas Edison was his invention of the light bulb.
Taken at face value, Edison’s phrase “a light bulb moment” might get interpreted to mean that inventions are birthed through a flash of blinding intuition that springs from nowhere; realistically, however, they rarely come that easy.
Factors such as teamwork, delegation, collaboration, planning, testing amongst others come into play.
According to Campbell, there are 17 steps on a mythical hero’s journey. Alon Braun, however, breaks them down into eight points
At this point, the entrepreneur having getting immersed in the world around gets struck by inspiration and a need to make a difference.
This urge more often than not requires a break away from what gets considered the norm and the case of Thomas Edison is no different.
To him, inspiration came after witnessing the innovative work of a fellow scientist.
In the same manner, the entrepreneur could find ideas from the work of other innovators and set out to find solutions to new problems.
The entrepreneur has clarity and sense of purpose regarding conceived innovative ideas.
The next step is to express this so that it can get shared and understood by others.
It, however, calls for a remarkable degree of strength, sheer will power and courage on the entrepreneur’s part especially if little or nothing is known about that idea or concept.
On getting to this phase, it is assumed that the entrepreneur has taken a conscious decision to move up to the external world of teamwork and collaboration.
At this point, their ideas are presented to collaborators such as investors, programmers, engineers, and so on.
Each of these goes on to reorient, strategize and work in harmony in order for them to build the envisioned product; in effect, the team becomes allies of the ‘hero’ (the entrepreneur) in fulfilling the noble task.
For Edison, his habit of making his notes available to his team serves as an invitation for them to give an honest opinion and to exchange ideas.
And from the result, it will not be far-fetched to assume that they did.
Planning can only succeed as far as proper and extensive research gets carried out.
This means that the team has to come to an informed decision on what products to build, for whom and draw out the best plan on how to achieve these.
Aspects of businesses such as market forces, competition, to name but a few also have to get considered and this could be challenging if there are delays or conflicts within the team.
Planning, for Edison, included outfitting his workplace- Menlo Park- with resources, human and physical, to make it the most comprehensive, electrical research facility in the world.
This was to ensure that his product would best suit the needs of his consumers.
In this phase, the team executes and develop their abstract ideas into an actual system in the physical world; such a system could be a product or service.
This developmental stage is not without its share of difficulties as tight budgets, setbacks, maintenance, as well as governmental or legislative regulations are among some hindrances which plague this process.
However, once these hurdles are crossed, then the team is home and dry.
Another pertinent fact to mention is that consistency is key as the product needs to get refined again and again until satisfaction gets guaranteed.
Edison and his team applied this principle by relentlessly improving upon the quality of their design from a bulb capable of lasting for half a day (13 hours, 30 minutes) to one lasting for 50 days (1200 hours).
The product after getting subjected to rigorous testing and experimenting gets to move to another phase assessing its long time value to prospective consumers.
It is expected of the product, at this stage, to fulfill the needs and provide value to those who use it.
The entrepreneur should avoid the temptation to offer their product simply because they appear to be in high demand without making sure that all bases have been thoroughly covered.
Like Edison who tested every part of his system not only for faults but for longevity, his reason being that “if there’s a failure in the system we must discover it before anyone else does”.
This is the stage at which the entrepreneur engages with potential users to create awareness as to the solution the product/service offers.
A major aspect of this engagement process is networking as this affords the entrepreneur to rub shoulders with the right people in his sphere.
For example, a tech startup will need to engage with people ranging from customers, marketers, to potential investors within the tech ecosystem.
Networking could get done at events, fairs, or other places where these people congregate.
Every activity is always subject to criticism whether positive or negative.
The trick is to focus on the constructive in nature and make proper adjustments as and when due.
At this point, the entrepreneur is at the last leg of their adventurous journey having slain all figurative dragons.
On reviewing These pointers, we can certainly agree with Thomas Edison’s words that “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Featured Image: africabriefing.org
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