A Venturing Model

I’ve been wanting to post on this for a while now. It’s a snapshot of my latest understanding of the venturing process. It’s early draft and the writing below is pretty much stream of consciousness but I’m being drawn to just get it out:

We’re in an interesting point in history where there is a transition from a mindset based on seeking to understand the smallest components of things (reductionist thinking, command and control models, ‘the great clockwork’, world/problems as ‘complicated’) toward a mindset that looks at systems in terms of the relationships/context in order to understand them (systems, ecological, ‘complex’).

I’ve been finding the early-stage venturing process as an interesting place to explore this transition and what it means for those who are using venturing as an approach to addressing issues that are becoming increasingly important to people and the planet.

Where I’ve come to is a visual model that helps me understand the forces at play in using a venturing as a tool to move things from one place to another, from one system to the envisioned system, from the no longer to the not yet.

I consider venturing as a vortex… a complex phenomenon that excels when it finds itself in a stable state far from equilibrium. In other words when it’s functionally stable on the edge of big changes in a marketplace.

There are 3 major contributing forces/dynamics that shape the vortex: internalities, externalities, and ideology. The conditions that lead to the creation of the vortex can be described as the trio of clarity, trust, and momentum. The conditions that then sustain, strengthen and accelerate the vortex are the conditions of basic financial stability, core competency coverage, the alignment of the vortex itself internally and within the 3 dynamic forces, and finally the availability of an appropriate, active network.

Moving into the vortex moves is where the process of rationalization enters. It is the balancing act of moving from core ideology (which describes the plane that the venture is being asked to operate in) to the theory of change (a rationalization of what you believe needs to be changed for the system to change — for your big, hairy audacious goal to be achieved), to the business system which translates the theory into a functional operational model that will perform the functions and deliver the services necessary to act on that theory of change. From there the more conventional strategic planning approaches enter in informing areas of activity that will most likely result in the organization moving toward the BHAG. Finally come the set of actions (action plan) that the organization is actually doing which are hoped to contribute to achieving the goal.

Conventional business school education has focussed on developing theories based on employing a command and control approach to moving organizations operating more closely toward equilibrium, which naturally is also where financial resources are most greatly employed. The farther from equilibrium something is… the harder it is for command and control approaches to work with predictable effectiveness. The proxy then in the capital markets has then naturally become the trust of the entrepreneur/management and the angel community which are not burdened by the same fiduciary duty that fund managers have (which is consider best served by the tried and true command and control model).

It’s not surprising then to see the emergence of ‘social entrepreneurs’ as the magically/mystically powerful icons they are becoming. In trying to tackle systemic shifts there is little in terms of approaches that are acknowledged as ‘tried and true’ because these shifts inherently are working at a place of being far from equilibrium and so are seen as ‘complicated’, ‘risky’, and inherently slippery when put under the conventional investment or reductionist rigor. Social entrepreneurs inherently are adept at intuiting their way through a complex endeavor and take on that responsibility internally. The trust in them to manage this is the proxy for the command and control model when it is recognize that conventional analysis and theory is too cumbersome, inconsistent, and unpredictable.

The attempt here then becomes one of unpacking what happens intuitively within the social entrepreneur and those advisers and contributors that have developed a good ‘gut’ for navigating a venture vortex from the no longer to the not yet. My hope with this is that we can begin to broaden the understanding of this complex process and thereby broaden society’s ability to employ the venturing process to evoke the systemic shifts that are and are asking to unfold as part of the history we are creating.


Online > mobile/recovering > present

I’ve been actively putting myself online… or rather updating my online presences and trying out the tools to manage my online connections lately and having been finding myself being hyper connected and active while I’m at my computer. While I’m working I’m usually listening to music, have a variety of online tools open (google reader, basecamp, slideshare, etc.) while at the same time doing email and working on docs/presentations. When I’m in that mode I can be hyper productive… but sometimes, like an hour ago, my nervous system screams ‘stop’.

I listened this time and went for a run in Springbank Park (I love where I live – because 7 minutes the otherway and I’d be in a Provincial Park for some hilly trail running). It was a good idea as what I probably would have started to struggle with for the rest of the day came to me half way through my run.

Thinking about it I notice 3 different states that I now tend to operate in: Online (where I’m hyper connected), mobile/recovering (where my connectivity is limited or my system is still in recovery mode), or present (where I’m fully aware of just what is around me at that moment). Sometimes these states interweave with each other which is good – and as long as I don’t resist what my nervous system is telling me – there should be a healthy balance of each.

Thanks also for the great pic post this morning Sarah of graffiti wisdom that took me down this path.


After much prodding a picked up the book ‘Getting to Maybe‘ and started reading it on the weekend. I have been pushing deeper into ‘the entrepreneurial approach’ and working with the idea that it is more about the creating/holding the space for things to emerge. This morning I read the chapter called ‘Let It Find You’ which is all about emergence. I am more convinced that in this element of entrepreneurship/social innovation is the ‘magic’ that can be amplified and applied to restoring balance among people and the planet.

Traditional incubators have often focused on either a single accomplished entrepreneur or a support services which can be helpful but don’t get at the core of entrepreneurship/innovation. The growing celebrity of social entrepreneurs has put a focus on the individuals again as a source of entrepreneurship but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The space that allows things to emerge can be held/created within an individual, a session/conversation, a group, or a network/community. ‘Getting to Maybe’ does a great job of presenting the importance of having things emerge. I’m hoping now to dig deeper in the ways that happens and how it can be intentionally created and held for maximum benefit. Certainly there is much to build from here, especially from people/places like the Institute of Cultural Affairs (here, here, and here) where they have spent lifetimes living, observing, and understanding how things emerge from the ground up. If you have some other great resources I should be looking at please let me know.

Great frameworks – reframing my focus.

The two most helpful frameworks that I’m working with right now are a brilliant piece on places to intervene in a system by Donella Meadows and theory u by Otto Scharmer. The Meadows piece has helped me articulate where I’m most drawn to invest myself (mindset shifts – even more the process of doing so) and Scharmer’s work is a comprehensive model of the stages involved in creating a mindset shift.

Back to the things I’ve been focusing on, the work on the collective potential of individual change is about finding a way to encourage individual shifts on a massive scale while the work on the entrepreneurial approach (which is about to undergo a major re-write – and an initial ‘survey’) is about creating entities and initiatives that can themselves take on system interventions at some level. Something else I’m sensing is a connection between the entrepreneurial approach and the process to shift a mindset. I’m interested to see where that goes.

If you are interested in participating in the initial ‘survey’ on entrepreneurial approach, just let me know. It is being designed to take the participants through a reflection of their own experiences and so should itself provide a valuable experience.

Entrepreneurial Approach – exploratory presentation.

I’ve done my quick first draft on exploring the entrepreneurial approach and its application. You can find it here. I wasn’t going to post it yet, but just had a great conversation with a coffee friend (here, here, and here) that was prompted by this draft. Cheers to good conversations!

On the train

Have been meaning to post this for a while now.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a train that ‘had an altercation’ with a person who apparently had decided to part with the world. When the announcement came across the PA that there was a fatality and that we would be delayed at least 2 hours, there was a large outcry from many of the passengers in my car that went something like this: “Oh man… now I’m going to be late. What an inconvenience. This sucks.”

Wow. What an example of our society.

My love to the friends and family of the ‘fatality’, to the train engineers, to the little 4 year old girl 4 seats back from me that heard the server on our car declare that “it hit just past the engine… and at first I thought it was a big branch.”

Peace to everyone.


I’ve just come up with a simple image that I’m starting work with in my exploration of how to apply the entrepreneurial approach in service of restoring balance among people and the planet. Right now, I’m seeing the process as a balance of push and pull with the space in between those being where opportunity and innovation emerges, and what I see as the work of the entrepreneurial process. It’s about creating that space and creating the conditions of push and pull that prompt what’s most helpful to emerge.

Scaling up the social finance marketplace in Canada.

Here’s an interesting map from http://www.xigi.net/ giving an overview of the latest initiative I’m co-creating. If you haven’t checked-out xigi.net… take a look. A very interesting tool that’s growing quickly and has the potential to make a significant contribution to the global marketplace that invests in good. Anyone else get the feeling that this ‘marketplace’ is really starting to take off?

make your own map at

My latest presentations.

Here are the latest presentations on the directions that are really interesting me right now. Take a look and send me any thoughts, comments, connections. It grows and gains momentum with the attention of others.

Accelerating the collective potential of individual change:

Systematically applying the entrepreneurial approach:
(UPDATED: April 19, 2007)

For benefit/community interest corporations.

The U.K. and soon the U.S. are putting together some great new hybrid models that look to engage the power of the capital markets in ventures that are created strictly in community interest. Take a look here for a primer on the U.K. model and here for launch pad to some of the U.S. work. Seeing the evolution of markets is a wonderful thing.