The Responsible Company

Just finished reading The Responsible Company, the second business book by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. His first, Let My People Surfing, laid out Chouinard’s personal path and the company’s history before spending the bulk of the book on the business philosophy of the small (roughly $400M) outdoor gear and apparel company. This second book establishes Chouinard’s voice and leadership in the new sustainable business movement—though he and co-author Vincent Stanley are quick to point out there’s no such thing as a truly ‘sustainable’ business.

If you’re thinking about starting something—or re-orienting your existing something—towards what matters to you, this book belongs on the stack on your desk. It’s a perfectly-timed counterbalance to the Jobs biography.

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Grounded advice for Entrepreneurs

Most of the advice for entrepreneurs that is floating around these days is focused on the 0.5% who are building venture capital-backed companies and furiously pivoting away in hopes of being the next Instagram. The overwhelming majority of new ventures, however, live in a different world with different rules.  Gravity applies, so does the need for profitability, cash flow, paying customers, employees, and lines of credit. And regardless of what the meia tell you, this is where America actually produces most jobs. So it was great to see Jay Goltz, writing for the New York Times, offer his list of 10 Rookie Mistakes for Entrepreneurs.

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Social entrepreneurship—as opposed to?

I just returned from an engaging panel discussion on social entrepreneurship, at Darden’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Research Conference. We were asked to speak on social entrepreneurship—a new field of venturing and venture investing, and a new and rapidly emerging curriculum in business schools across the country. I had to pose the question: If at this moment we are talking about entrepreneurship for the social good, what are we talking about, and teaching, when it’s just entrepreneurship?

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To pivot or not to pivot…

It seems that the best strategy for a startup is longer a matter of if, or even when, but now how many times you pivot before you make it rich. Pivoting, a term the enterpreneur-turned-entrepreneurial sage Steve Blank recently popularized, now threatens to become the next business buzzword. Forget open innovation, what’s your pivot strategy? That’s dangerous.

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Risk, Uncertainty, and the Challenge of Sustainable Innovation

Innovation is risky business. For companies pursuing sustainable innovations, these risks take on the scale of the effort and the context of the problems, the politics, and the markets involved. The most important aspect of this challenge to sustainable innovation is understanding the nature of risk at work. Without this understanding, innovation efforts are paralyzed and innovation policies—especially those intending to promote new investments—stifle them instead.

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