Let's Talk: Hand up, not pull down

By Annette Kendall -
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Annette Kendall.
Annette Kendall.

Hands up if you've ever shared with someone what you thought was an amazing idea, only to have that someone rain all over it, leaving you as deflated as the month old balloon your 3-year-old saved from their birthday party.

I have two hands up. If I had nine hands I'd have all of them up.

Hands up if someone has ever come to you with an idea, as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve and you've had to burst their balloon because you knew it would never work. I should have two hands up. In fact I should have my nine hands up again.

I am as ashamed of this as I am of the venture I had going when I was 9 which involved stealing old ladies' garden flowers and selling them back to them. (Quite lucrative given the going rate was between 20 and 50 cents or a Mallowpuff.)

Who was I to tell someone their idea, their fabulous dream, would never work? Some all-knowing entrepreneur who had stacked up 99 successes against just one failure and could predict fairly accurately just what would work and what wouldn't?

Did I believe they needed protecting? Was I the all-knowing predictor of success and failure and had to be cruel to be kind in order to advise them against 'risking it all'?

How naive. Naive to think they would thank me for stomping on their dreams, yes, but more importantly naive to think I could foretell the future.

Because that's ultimately what it comes down to. If I'm so good at predicting what will and won't work, how come I don't have a stack of successful businesses lined up in the main street?

We'll ask our mate who's had the same job his whole life what he thinks of our idea and take action (or not) according to what he thinks. As if that person is Nostradamus himself reincarnated.

Nowadays I don't advise people on whether I think their idea will work or not. Back in the 80s I was the one watching the Jetsons talk to each other via a screen proclaiming such a thing was impossible. I can't predict these things and I'm okay with admitting it.

The guys at IBM initially predicted the potential world market for photocopiers was 5000 machines. Ernest Rutherford said anyone who predicted a source of power from the transformation of atoms was talking moonshine. And that was after he split the thing. This very practice of us thinking we can protect others from 'losing it all' is killing our economy.

It is much less about the idea itself and far more about the person behind it. Whether a venture has a chance of success depends largely on the passion and drive of a human being to make it happen. Our job isn't to protect them as if we are all-knowing examples of success and they are entirely incapable of making it work. Our job is to help them plug the holes, make it stronger and support them.

By the way, you can put your hands down now.

Dannevirke's Annette Kendall has recently finished an MBA specialising in regional economic development and is co-founder of Ankle, a company specialising in strengthening regional business. She has one cat, one child and one husband and a passion for seeing helping people achieve their dreams.

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