What is the right scale?

Some impacts are hard to scale spatially, or geographically, or culturally. But they can be persistent, and in time, they scale well. For example, if you’re a teacher of a classroom of 40, you might impact at the most 40 lives. And that is not easy to scale, because enlarging the class does not necessarily mean more lives are impacted though the education system might want to think that way.

I once asked talked about scaling Laksa (a Singaporean dish) in an article about the narratives of millennials. I wondered if it matters that we created products which didn’t scale at least during the moment they were created. If we create products only to ride waves of growth, than majority of the products and service offerings in the world would not exists. It is often seeking to serve a particular audience that an offering comes into play and then gradually finds either more audience or more application in order to scale.

So what is the right scale for the impact that we make, or the offering we’re trying to put out in the world? It is exactly the scale that keeps things going, that keeps you doing what you want to do. If you’re happy to keep doing supporting under-privileged kids one by one, go for it; make sure it pays you enough to keep you going as well. And it is the same for a business, you just need the smallest viable audience (a concept that is popularised by Seth Godin).

Sustainability is the right benchmark, not just for the environment, but also the scale of what we do.

Entrepreneurial endeavours

What counts as enterprising? How do you quantify that? Or is it more of a “I know it when I see it” kind of thing? Can one act be deemed as reckless by one and entrepreneurial by another? Whose views prevail? Does entrepreneurial necessarily mean taking risks? Or it is about being able to deal with problems and solve them creatively? Does it take cognitive flexibility?

Being in a capitalist world that is dominated somewhat by market-centricity, we often find the entrepreneur an alluring character. He (or she) is less controversial than in the past, having spruced up the image, and reduced the moral fatality of greed. Yet to me, entrepreneurship is more about the combination of action, courage and wits that sets one apart from another.

Action being about doing, not just saying. Courage being about risk-taking, but not recklessly so. And wits that combines self-awareness with large degree of cognitive flexibility that allows one to bend towards various situations and circumstances while successfully being able to achieve one’s goals. The entrepreneur can be an employee at work, a freelancer, the startup founder or the manager of a large institution. The entrepreneur need not be enterprising just from the perspective of creating financial value but also that of impact to the world.

The entrepreneur disrupts the precious equilibria sought after by economists, ensuring that the world never settles for what it is but moves towards what it could be. To a large extent, the entrepreneur actively seeks to create a future that he wants for himself and those around him.