Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Entrepreneurial Intelligence (ENTINT?)

All entrepreneurs are crazy. 

Nuts.  Cuckoo.  Certifiable dingbats.  Need evidence?  How about this:  According to a study published last year, only about 25% of companies that take venture capital are able to make any money off it -- the other 75% lose at least some and perhaps all of the money.  

Need more?  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about a third of all small businesses make it for longer than 10 years and 30% fold within the first two years!  You have to be crazy to go up against those odds...

Intelligence analysts live to forecast and one of the easiest forecasts you can make, or so it seems, is the sooner-rather-than-later demise of a new business. 

Easy but worthless.

It is a situation that is sort of like the 1990 National Intelligence Estimate on what is now the former YugoslaviaIt was completed just before the war broke out in full force.  It turned out to be extremely accurate but was virtually useless to the policymakers of the day.  In fact, it was probably counterproductive as it validated the inertia that was prevalent in Washington regarding the issue at the time.

You see, it was in the US's interests -- heck, it was in everyone's interests -- to keep Yugoslavia from breaking up or, if it had to break up, to do it in a way that was neither bloody nor lengthy.  Saying, as the NIE did, that the breakup was inevitable and that there was nothing policymakers could do about it was singularly unhelpful.  The policymakers needed to try and they could have used some intelligence insights to help them.

So it is with entrepreneurs.  Telling them that they are likely to fail probably isn't going to dissuade them from trying; its just going to make them think that intelligence isn't going to be very valuable.  This is a shame, since entrepreneurs probably have more questions about things that are critical to their success or failure but are outside their control (the essence of an intelligence question) than most businesses.

For the last several months I have been busy starting my own company and working on a number of games (one of them - Widget - is about ready to launch.  You can find out more about it here if you are interested).  I know intelligence has a role to play in entrepreneurship but am just beginning to understand what that role is and how it is both different and the same as more traditional notions of intelligence in business.  As I learn new things and gain understanding, I intend to explore these ideas in an occasional series of posts on the topic.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sources And Methods Games? Yes!

Well, I went and did it!  Started my own company - Sources And Methods Games!

No, I am not quitting my day job.

But ... I do want to explore the intersection between games, intelligence, learning and entrepreneurship (4 big passions of mine).  Doing so from the safety of the University and with someone else's money, however, just didn't seem right somehow.  I suppose I just like testing theories more than talking about them.

What specifically, do I hope to learn?

  • What makes a game good?  
  • How do games teach?  
  • Is it possible to make good games that teach intelligence concepts or methods?  
  • Does it make more sense, from the standpoint of teaching intelligence, to focus on tabletop or video games?  
  • How is crowdfunding (KickStarter, IndieGoGo, etc.) changing the gaming industry (particularly the tabletop games industry)?  
  • What are the intelligence requirements of a globalized, crowdfunded, social media driven business environment?
  • Given the research into effectual reasoning and entrepreneurship, what is intelligence's role in a start-up? 
  • What are an entrepreneur's Essential Elements of Information (EEIs)?  
  • How can they best be met?  

There's more, but this list is a good start.  The bottomline is that this effort -- which is as much a research project as a company -- gives me a chance to explore these questions in a more realistic way.  I recognize that much of the evidence I gather will be anecdotal but I think I will be better able to orient myself on important issues as a result.

This is not the first time I have owned a games company, though.  I ran a small company, Wheaton Publications, back in the early 80's while I was still in law school - ran it right into the ground.  Despite having two pretty good, well-reviewed games, the company was massively under-capitalized and had to be shuttered within 18 months.  

While it was painful at the time, I remember how much I learned from the experience.  While I am no Rockefeller, my financial position has improved a bit since I was a poor law student living in a basement and eating mac and cheese 4 times a week.  I still have good games (including one I which I am about to launch in the next couple of weeks -- if you are interested you can get more information here).  So, who knows?  Maybe I'll make it 24 months this time!