Our Next Opportunity: Sharing knowledge about the value of Micro Enterprise

Submitted by Betsey Merkel on Mon, 08/18/2008 - 12:30.

Here's an excellent discussion on the economic gardening google group regarding Scott Shane's comment in the BusinessWeek article, The Entrepreneurship Myth, in conjunction to his 2007 publication, The Illusions of Entrepreneurship.

(Note: Scott acted as academic advisor and was co-director with Ed Morrison while our team - now know as The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) - was at the Center for Regional Economic Issues (REI) at Case from 2003-2005.)

Chris Gibbons, Economic Gardening, leads off the conversation with this comment:

"This jumps to the "400 level" course in entrepreneurship...a lot of subtleties in the business as this level.

I would agree that just entrepreneurship across the board has little payout and you might well be better off getting a job at a corporation. The slight flaw in that argument though, is that a growth company also had to start up somewhere...they don't just appear full grown.

He argues the pay is poor in certain industries -- motels and restaurants.  From our standpoint, these are commodity industries which by definition can't differentiate themselves and therefore are caught in a downward spiral of trying to cut costs so they can have the lowest
prices.  Not a lot of surprises there.

We have always said that about 3% of the companies are making most of the difference but to get 3, you still have to start with 100.  Not even the best of VC's can predict which three will make it.

An baseball analogy would be....let's do away with Pop Warner Leagues and high school ball and college ball and AAA league farm teams and just jump to hiring only Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The rest is a waste of time and resources.   If it were that easy, I'd call in the three
winners from home and have them mail me my paycheck. "

Contributors to the threaded discussion include such notable economic development practitioners  as Economic Gardening's creator, Chris Gibbons; Al Jones, Regional Director, Montana's Department of Commerce; Boomtown's, Jack Schultz;  and Christine Hamilton-Pennell, creator of Growing Local Economies.

Within the discussion, one comment of interest is from Tony Smale from New Zealand because it identifies the 1) lack of - or opportunity for -  meaningful storytelling by local brand enterprises, 2) opportunity for relevant academic research and, 3) reveals the Myth that value looks like BIG, LARGE, and at the TOP is systemic...

"The Influence of National Culture on New Zealand's Innovation Outcomes"...The problem extends even deeper, especially in countries like NZ where our definition of small/medium enterprise is much smaller than in the US. Almost all of the business school teaching is around large business or large business thinking - as if a small entrepreneurial business is simply a miniature version of a large business! One of my "classmates" is studying brand development for small business and he has struggled to accumulate enough published papers on the topic (especially relating to NZ size small businesses that in the US you would describe as micro) for his work. Based around my own research, we drive the problem even deeper by failing to recognise the distinctive cognitive and behavioural differences between cultures, and in multicultural societies like the USA, Australia and New Zealand, that is a special issue. "

The work of the REALNEO community (online and F2F) is a working testament to the goodness of micro. It would be great if folks from REALNEO contributed to the Economic Gardening Google Group conversation. There is an abundance of working knowledge from the REALNEO Civic Space to share!

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