Friday, April 21, 2017

Watch New Interview - 1871 CEO Howard Tullman and Professor Rob Wolcott


Robo-Entrepreneurs, Jobless Economy And Being Entrepreneurial: A Conversation With Howard Tullman

I explore business, leadership and humanity in our technological age.  
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Howard Tullman

Howard Tullman is CEO of 1871, a serial entrepreneur, venture investor, art collector and an alumnus of Northwestern University.

For Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, entrepreneurship is a calling. In 2012, INC Magazine referred to him as “the most accomplished, best-connected entrepreneur you’ve never heard of.” He’s built more companies than most people have worked for (bio here). More than that, Tullman has devoted much of his career to enabling others to create the future.
In our conversation at 1871 in Chicago, by many measures America’s top entrepreneurial ecosystem, Tullman shared wisdom about topics ranging from entrepreneurs as rock stars, the impending jobless economy (it’s real) and robo-entrepreneurs (they’re not— yet), to how education must transform for people to thrive in this technology-driven century. Here are a few highlights.

1871, photo by Greg Rothstein
Howard Tullman at 1871 interviewing entrepreneur and SharkTank star Daymond John. 1871 hosts over 1,000 events each year and dignitaries from around the world.
“Not only has the entrepreneur become a rock star… all the jocks want to be entrepreneurs.”
It used to be that young people aspired to be Michael Jordan or Mick Jagger. Today, many young people aspire to be Mark Zuckerberg. While few people will ever become a Zuckerberg, the good news is that there are far wider opportunities for people seeking entrepreneurial success than hoping to become a National Basketball League star.
“We couldn’t write a rule book if our life depended on it.” 
As organizations find what works, they create structure and process to drive efficiency. This translates to a range of rules, explicit and implicit. For an organization like 1871, comprised of hundreds of startups and thousands of contributors seeking to generate value in new ways, creating too many rules threatens the ecosystem’s effectiveness.
“We’re about expectations of performance and not rules of behavior.” 
Rather than rules, which can become rigid and tend to drive out whatever doesn’t fit, Tullman and his team set high expectations for both performance and values, or “principles” in Tullman’s nomenclature, and expect people find their own ways to success. Seeking performance alone can lead to failure. Enforcing the right principles mitigates risk and provides a foundation for lasting success. Focusing on performance encourages everyone to excel-- or leave. “You can grow by adoption, which means people get with the program, or by attrition…. It’s fine either way.”
“Seeking consensus… is a formula for mediocrity.”
Most established organizations create structures and processes biased in favor of consensus and/or peace. As Tullman describes, “no one wants to be the bad in someone else’s day.” But navigating from idea to market success is a tough, unaccommodating quest. Seeking consensus from too many decision makers and influencers risks circumscribing or even destroying an opportunity by conforming it to too many of the constraints of the world as it is today. A truly transformative concept by definition upends someone’s apple cart.
Spending too much time generating consensus also means you haven’t spent that same time engaging with the people who really matter-- customers.
“This is a different kind of change…. This is a wholesale elimination.”
Commenting on the impact of emerging technologies on jobs, Tullman agrees we’re facing dramatic shifts in what opportunities will be available for human beings. In our discussion, he shares tangible advice for transforming educational paradigms. As the founder of a major digital media school in Chicago, Tribeca Flashpoint College, Tullman speaks from experience. He recommends finding projects meaningful to students and allowing them to discover what’s required to excel. “If you say to somebody, ‘I’m going to teach you English,’ they’re gone. If you say, ‘I’m going to help you with your script for your movie,’ they’re all there.”
But it’s not just about millennials. “The real risk… is major corporations are not investing in upskilling people who are 50.” The 1871 community exemplifies that entrepreneurship doesn’t have an age range. “The respect and exchange of ideas between some 25 year olds and some 60 year olds is really astonishing…. I think the 60 year olds are more excited than the 25 year olds.”
The Long View
Near the end of our conversation, Tullman took the long view. “You wouldn’t want to look back and say that you spent a great deal of your time working on something that really doesn’t matter.” We each have limited attention during our time on Earth. Unimportant things tend to dominate day-to-day activities. It takes discipline and self-knowledge to discover and pursue what is truly meaningful, and the answer differs for each person. Tullman lives his answer.

You can find me at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

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