What is it about some companies that make them shine way above the rest? They have differentiated propositions, take a massive lead on competition, build a strong brand and just outperform others.
More specifically, I am really interested in some of those massive companies that have entered onto the world stage and become literally global phenomena in less than a decade. Great examples such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google come to mind. These outstanding founders often become labeled unfairly as techie geeks. However when you probe further into their academic background some are obviously technical many have an arts degree. Reid Hoffman founder of LinkedIn – BA in Symbolic Systems and MA in Philosophy, his co-founder Peter Thiel also of PayPal fame BA in Philosophy, Chris Hughes co Founder of Facebook BA in History and Literature, and Eduaro Saverin also co-founder of Facebook BA in Economics.
For me it raises a number of questions that I would love to delve into further – would knowledge and technology based businesses benefit from a founding team that combines scientific/technical and creative talent. Does this create an enlightened company? – One that sees opportunities from different angles embraces ambiguity and curiosity and also one that is willing to explore various options and keep an open mind as to what is and what is not possible.
We are continuously being reminded that the UK needs to commercialise its R & D and knowledge assets and we massively lag behind the US in this arena. Equally we are told that academics and technologists need to become more entrepreneurial if we are to reverse the fortunes of turning IP into revenue. So what is the missing link?
In 1981 Roger W. Sperry won The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine – he discovered that the left side of the brain was associated with analytical thinking the right with more creative thought. Is it fair to say that when the mindset of a founding team combines both; greater is the likelihood of success? So what are the implications on all those massively talented scientific individuals who are exploring a business idea – given they are probably dominated by left-brain thinking, would an injection of right brain support help to accelerate the idea to market process?
Just how important is the role of combining technical/scientific functional mastery with creative thinking. Would university incubators and others involved in stimulating high growth businesses and spin outs benefit from bringing individuals from humanities and arts faculties into the mix. After all diversity and interconnected thinking drives innovation.
It’s about time Manchester and indeed the rest of the UK started to create some of the Gorilla companies such as Facebook – after all we have the talent. Maybe we just need to get the so-called geeks talking to the creative’s – and throw an accountant in there as well!