Leverage virtual network to thrive in Eastern Iowa

Here is a column submitted by Alex Taylor, an associate director within the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. He has written columns in the past for both The Gazette and We Create Here, on topics related to innovation and start up businesses. Technology Begets Borderless Connectivity by Alex Taylor As Iowa’s Creative Corridor evolves its regional identity, our communities and organizations will need to abandon bordered perspectives that confine our thinking and resources. While technology and infrastructure have made “city limits” almost obsolete, it will be the same technology that helps drive our connectivity and economic success. The internet, cell phones, websites, blogs, and social media have made it possible to be instantaneously connected with people and businesses from all over the world. Skype, Hangouts, and FaceTime (to name a few) allow us to connect and meet “face-to-face” with business partners, sales forces, colleagues from across the nation and around the world. Cloud technology helps bridge distances to simultaneously collaborate and share information, documents and workspaces in a real time environment. We are no longer hostages to our physical space, geographic location and institutional “borders”. To compete we no longer have to break down barriers, but rather use technology to establish our connections and network these resources to our advantage. For example, I know a local restaurant working with regional distillery, an few local investors, and a corridor marketing firm to develop, design, bottle and sell its own brand label refreshments. Or how about this scenario: a marketing business in Washington (Iowa) connects and technically networks with a state-of-the art print service located in Hiawatha. Then they…

Innovation: You failed. Now what?

By Alex Taylor In Iowa’s Creative Corridor, we have the ingredients to incubate, nurture, encourage and drive innovation. We have entrepreneurial centers, we have technology resources, and we have a host of higher education institutions that thrive on relevance and new ideas. And we have plenty of failures to innovate from. Huh? Say What? “Failures to innovate from?” One of the greatest challenges we face in our personal and professional lives is to be honest with ourselves (and others) to recognize and accept degrees of failure, then, objectively reflect on what worked, what didn’t and what might be done differently. To muster the courage to adjust and try again. To dissect a failure, explore expectations. What were your expectations and the expectations of others? How were they the same or different? Were the expectations realistic? By nature, humans tend to be optimistic in our endeavors. As such, we take on more than we can handle, or simply over-promise and under-deliver. Establish clear, reasonable and agreed upon expectations and outcomes. This goes a long way to minimize perceptions of failure. Second, I like to review the plan. Was the plan (formal or informal) well established, understood, and designed for success, or was the planned outcome a solution looking for a problem? Sometimes, having a simple and logically designed plan (or set of action items) can make all the difference. Identify action items or progressive steps to achieve desired outcomes and measure your progress along the way.  Let me repeat: Incrementally measure or track results along the way. By establishing and adhering to a schedule that measures progress against expectations, you...

Can entrepreneurialism be taught?

Alex Taylor is Associate Director of the Tippie School of Management. Contact: alexander-taylor-1@uiowa.edu Let me ask, do you think entrepreneurship can be taught and learned? I recently posed this question to a group of students enrolled in the Tippie College of Business Entrepreneurial Certificate program and surprisingly the responses were mixed. Some were a bit skeptical, even though they were sitting in an entrepreneurial class. Go figure. After some discussion, we agreed that yes, entrepreneurship CAN be taught and learned, but we further agreed that some people are more predisposed to learn these skills than others. In his book, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell proposed a theory that if a person spends 10,000 hours practicing, or doing a particular task, skill or activity, that person can master that skill. Gladwell uses the examples of Bill Gates with programming, and the Beatles with music. As it goes with most theories, there will be some who would debate to the veracity of this concept. But all-in-all, I believe that a person who spends enough time thinking about and doing something, while they may not become world class experts, should certainly expect to become minimally proficient. So perhaps a better question might be, what skills must a person possess to be good entrepreneur? Here are a few that come to mind, in no particular order: The ability to see or observe a need: as the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Some people are much more curious and observant than others. Critical thinking and creative problem solving skills: sometimes we limit our thinking to conventional approaches, but what I’m talking about is...