Dreamers, Designers and Doers

15Sep09

 

future image from npalliance.org

In B-school I had a professor who studied the attributes of business owners compared to the rest of working people.  Some of the findings were not surprising: entrepreneurs have a higher tolerance for,  even an increased appetite for, risk.  And, he said, family upbringing exerts an influence on career choices.  Children of government or corporate parents were less likely to become business owners, for example. 

One fact in particular hit home for me.  He noted that many employees in hierarchical organizations say that they dream of starting their own businesses.  They go as far as to flesh out these dreams, design the business plan.  They share it with friends and neighbors enthusiastically and at length.   But they never do it.  

They always have lots of reasons why they don’t do it.  But what my professor told us was that often the real reason they never do it, is that the dreaming and the designing satisfy them – that, in fact, they did not need to actually start the business in order to be satisfied- they just needed to dream and design.

Maybe this is like daydreaming in detail about what you would do if you won the lottery.  You know, you need to be prepared just in case it happens.  I do that sometimes.   

Dreaming is a form of entertainment but it also can lead to insights, ideas and action.  I daydream and nightdream about my work everyday.  I have to.  I enjoy it.  It is my way of pushing myself  to see and go farther, faster. 

Designing makes the dream do-able to us.  But doing – doing is risk, commitment.  Doing is proving and winning – and is often done solo.   How many people are excited about taking big risks and working their tails off to make another’s dreams come true?  (your mother doesn’t count)

But, isn’t it true that many of us join corporations precisely because we believe we can achieve something greater within them, working with others, than we can achieve on our own?   Dreaming and designing don’t care where you work – you can do them inside yourself.   However, “doing” within an existing organization means first creating a shared dream.  Many organizations say they need their employees to be more innovative.   But how many demand that their employees dream?

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