It does not have to be a Zero Sum Game

PH02802JIt’s been an interesting week so far.   A week of stepping back and looking at why things happen, how things happen, and how we fix them. 

As an economist, we were trained to look at value based on scarcity.  There is only so much to go around and value is based on how rare or unique something is and how badly people want it.

As an innovator, we look at creating plenty.  Not ‘how to get our piece of the pie’ but rather how to use what we have to ‘make the pie bigger or create new types of pies’.

Lately, I fear that too many of us have been thinking more like economists and less like innovators.

As I write this, I am listening as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testifies to the House Finance Committee.  He laid out six key ingredients for his recipe for stabilizing future financial markets, protecting key assets, creating market balance globally, and forming public/private partnerships to deal with the plethora of distressed assets that are choking the system.  It’s a discussion on managing scarcity and creating security- but long term perhaps we may also be inhibiting growth.

But here is what else I have heard and experienced:

My friend Francine Hardaway has often cautioned me about the perils of stepping out as a leader and an innovator.  She never discourages me, simply warns me to be prepared for the challenges that come with that path.  She should know, she’s faced them for over 30 years!  Sometimes I listen.  Sometimes I don’t.  (Unfortunately she has an uncanny knack for being right – especially when I don’t listen.)

A Skype conversation with Annie Loyd yesterday opened my eyes to what innovators can do and what innovators need.  Annie too has been leading for decades.  With a passion for equality, justice,  and opportunity, Annie has been working behind the scenes and on the front lines for years.  Her vision for her next big adventure is brilliant. 

Gloria Feldt dropped me a note on FaceBook and asked a question about why so many feminists choose not to lead but rather stay in a circle or team to move change forward collectively.  My answer to Gloria was simple.  We need both.  “I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist – but leading can be a joy if you have a wide circle of support both male and female to move the mission forward. The trick is knowing when to step out and when to step back into the circle for support.”

A collection of friends from coast to coast have been helping me understand what’s happening on the private equity and venture capital fronts.  Yes there are challenges right now, but I am inspired by all of the creative ideas and strategies that are being developed and deployed to overcome those challenges.

And to top it all off, my new friend Sheri Tate sent me an incredibly edible treat, a sampling of her newest  Silver Moon Desserts. Imagine ice creams and sorbets infused with a tantalizing hint of liqueur – melting in your mouth.  Someone is going to make a fortune with Sheri and her team.  I just sent a note to a few friends I know who might want to take a look – and a taste.

You see life, innovation, and growth do not have to be played as a Zero Sum Game.  We all have opportunities to make the pie bigger, or create a series of unique and different pies of all shapes and sizes.  We just need to keep building that strong circle of support, finding new ingredients, adjusting our recipe by trial and error, and then reaching down for the courage to take a big step out of the circle and take the lead.

Stay Tuned…

– Joan Koerber-Walker

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