Capitalism: People Competing to Cooperate

August 26, 2011 1 comment

Here’s the new book trailer for The Morality of Capitalism by David Boaz.

In it Boaz says capitalism is “people competing to cooperate,” which is so true. I see it everyday.

Capitalism also drives people to compete for charity: the poorest and weakest win charitable donations, and it drives people to compete to give charity: the most community-minded organizations are given recognition and rewarded good will (which brings more business their way).  It’s not altruism that fuels this charitable engine; it’s rational self-interest.

Has anyone read this book yet? What did you think? (I’m thinking of getting it).

Book #3 is Now Available! (Wyatt’s Laughing Lark)

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Wyatt's Laughing Lark (Book 3 of the Future Business Leaders' Series™)

Wyatt's Laughing Lark

Book #3 of the kids’ adventure Future Business Leaders’ Series™ is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon!

>> Wyatt’s Laughing Lark on Amazon <<

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The Politics of Children

May 13, 2011 2 comments

It started a few months ago. My first-grade daughter was talking a lot about a club her classmates had started. Each member got a special title upon joining, and I could tell she was anxious to be asked to join. The day she finally got the invitation, she enthusiastically told me that she had been granted the Princess Anything title by King Anything (a 7-year-old named Bennett). The hierarchy established by their King/Queen/Prince/Princess titles was obvious, but “Anything” created another alliance of some sort that I was not privileged to know or understand.

We’ve all made or joined a club or two growing up. I had the “Waterbomb Club” for the neighborhood girls to gain entry into my backyard swimming pool. Then there was the “Pink Ladies are Cool” club that I started with my best friend after watching Grease for the eleventh time. I never really thought of the clubs as anything more than innocent fun. Or are they?

King Anything.

King Anything made me wonder about the politics of children. How did King Anything gain this influence over the other kids? How did he behave to achieve this alpha male status? What was his motive? Was it just for fun? Did he get a hint of satisfaction, a spike in serotonin, in ruling over and controlling the other kids? When do children go from power plays to playing for power?

What evolutionary significance lies at the heart of alliances and hierarchy in child’s play?

About the same time my kid was ascending to Princess status, I came across three really great movies touching on the politics of children. Each gives a perceptive glimpse into the origins of our social makeup, asking and answering questions like:

  • What tactics do kids use to get what they want? How much of of those tactics are learned from adults (vs. being innate)?
  • What sense of justice and fairness is natural?
  • What degree of freedom is instinctual?
  • What are we willing to give up in order to fit into the “in” crowd?

The Movies (I highly recommend all of these):

World Peace Game and Other 4th Grade Achievements

World Peace Game

Blame it on Fidel!

Movie: Blame it on Fidel!

Please Vote for Me (documentary)

Documentary: Please Vote for Me

  1. World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements (documentary): Social studies teacher John Hunter created the “World Peace Game” to introduce his fourth-grade students to global issues and improve their diplomacy and critical thinking skills. The children are divided into teams representing fictional countries, each with limited natural resources, economic dilemmas and enemies. There are arms traders and even a schemer planted among the students who is instructed to lie and throw everyone off their game. This movie follows one class through the 8-week game as they work hard to gather allies and protect their resources. We see them get angry when they lose control of their country’s power, and that’s when things get ugly. The only way to win the game is for each country to obtain a minimum limit of GDP so that “World Peace” can be declared. An absolutely fascinating look into the nature of politics!
  2. Blame it on Fidel! (narrative): A brilliant film about a young French girl whose parents become radical Communists and turn her world upside-down. In her confusion and anger, she asks the adults around her some of the most rational, insightful questions, but no one is really able to answer them correctly or thoroughly for her.
  3. Please Vote for Me (documentary): Chinese kids participate in their own, unprecedented, democratic election of their class monitor. One kid is eager to control his classmates and uses charisma to charm them into voting for him. Another kid says he doesn’t want to control people, yet already has a history of beating his classmates into submission. He learns to use a field trip as an incentive to buy votes. They try persuasion, deliberation and even intimidation to gain votes. The only thing they don’t try is an SNL skit to make the others look like idiots.

The politics of children is not unlike our own adult politics. There are hints of war in every playground squabble fought and diplomacy in every club alliance formed. Understanding how to maneuver through society resourcefully, peacefully, and ethically is critical to a child’s education, especially the entrepreneur’s.

A few days ago, my daughter told me she quit the club. Why? I asked, knowing how much it once meant to her. She quit because her friend Marcy quit, and Marcy told her to. Since my daughter is normally a very independent child, I found her blind obedience (or was it loyalty?) odd. I asked her why she quit just because her friend told her to. (I resisted from asking her if Marcy jumped off the Empire State Building, would she. I’m sure I’ll have another chance to use that one). She answered me, “I don’t know. I guess I was getting bored with it.” Oh, okay. That was a better reason. Then she said the next day they both joined the club again! Ha! So fickle!

I can only imagine what alpha male King Anything did to convince these two strong-willed little girls to rejoin his “boring” club, but I guess it was pretty persuasive. He’ll be one to watch! :)

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NOTE: The 3rd book of the FBLS, Wyatt’s Laughing Lark (and the Search for the Secret Map), introduces politics to the entrepreneur kids of Nessibus through a mayoral race between two politicians: Flash the Fly and Barnacle Blah Barnes. From a political and personal perspective, they are complete opposites of each other, yet they share one thing in common: they both want to pass laws that will threaten the entrepreneur kids’ businesses, leaving readers to wonder which politician will they align to and how they will save their businesses?

Thinking of Starting a Business and Need Tips Fast? Pick up Startup

April 15, 2011 Leave a comment

If you are thinking of starting your own business but don’t know where to start, then pick up a copy of Elizabeth Edward’s StartupEdwards is a former venture capitalist who has read hundreds of business plans and heard hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their ideas.

I was interested in her book because Wyatt, the main character for the 3rd book of the Future Business Leaders’ Series (which is coming out in June) takes on an adventure to write a business plan and court venture capitalists so his comedy club can grow.  I wanted to read what advice a real venture capitalist would give to a first-timer, and Startup fit the profile.

Startup

Startup: for new entrepreneurs

Startup is packed with the necessary ingredients you must have to cook up any business. Edwards provides countless resources and advice for researching your market and building a sound business plan. You’ll also find tips for technical tools and lots of legal recommendations.

I was most impressed with the level of detail she covers in regard to raising capital. Edwards diligently outlines nearly every possible financing option available to entrepreneurs, giving the pros and con of each. She meticulously describes the requirements, application processes, and the loan amounts and interest rates you can expect.

You’ll have to overlook the untidy formatting. There are many blank pages in the middle of chapters and the image resolution is a bit poor. But if you’re just starting a business, then you’ll find the information so valuable that these minor faults are certainly worth forgiving.

The tips and guidelines in the book are mostly straight-to-the-point and practical, without much storytelling. Edwards seals her credibility when she proposes brainstorming your brand with buddies and booze, which I highly recommend, too! ;)

Six Ways to Help Kids Think Like Entrepreneurs

March 1, 2011 Leave a comment

When I met with a few 3rd-5th grade kids for a “meet the author” event, I asked them, “Now that you have read the book, do you want to own your own business one day?”   They said they did. “What sort of business would you like to have?” I asked.

The first boy said he wanted to own a motorcycle store. So I drew his motorcycle shop up on the white board with motorcycles and stick people customers. Another kid wanted to own his own outdoor hunting store. So I drew that up on the board, across the street from the motorcycle shop. The third kid wanted to own a hardware/software store. “Well, that’s perfect! Because both stores will need hardware and software,” I said, explaining the relationship between customers and vendors.  So it went.

The kids were engaged in the moment. They could envision their place in the world, and they could imagine it with their peers.  At the end, one mother asked the kids, “Okay. What words did you learn today?”  The kids shouted, “Entrepreneur!”

Creativity is a key ingredient for entrepreneurship, and I’ve found kids are typically much more creative than adults. Unfortunately, many of us lose (or bury) most of our creativity as we grow into adulthood and conform to the conventions of adult life.  So why wait until kids are almost adults to start teaching them about business?  It doesn’t make much sense, does it?  Maybe we don’t think kids will “get it.”  Since I witnessed it that day with the parents, kids and a white board, I know for certain they do.

Teaching kids how to think like entrepreneurs is easier than you might think.  Here are six simple activities you can do to introduce business concepts to them and prepare them for life in the real world.

1.  Start by helping the kids explore what they really love to do.  Are they artistic?  Do they love to build things in Legos(tm)?  Do they love sports? Successful entrepreneurs follow their passions. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Pixar Animation Studios and Apple and a successful entrepreneur who struggled many times in his career, once said of the tough times:

“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.  You’ve got to find what you love. …Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you will know when you find it.”  (Fortune Magazine, Sept 5,2005)

Exploring what we love to do is a good practice for us all and never too early to learn.

2.  Explore products and services around you.  For example, explain that the television is a product and a maid cleaning a house is providing a service. Give several examples of each and then quiz them to see if they get it.

Once they understand the concepts, help them think of a product or service that they and their friends would like, but don’t have now.  What do they or their friends complain about? What do they wish for?  What product or service could be created that doesn’t exist now that would fulfill their wish?  Or perhaps, there’s a product or service that just needs to be improved upon?

Let’s look at the case of Sam. When asked to share something he and his friends complain about, Sam says he hates taking the route to his friend Kenny’s house because he has to ride by the neighborhood bully’s house to get there. He’s afraid of getting picked on, or worse yet, getting pushed off his bike.

In this case, we ask him to think of a product or service that could help him no longer fear this route, or better yet, not even have to take it. You’ll be amazed at how creative kids can be.  Try to get them to think of a product or service that solves the problem and aligns with what they love to do.  Brainstorm with them the steps to create a business selling this product or service. Help them explore the reality of their ideas.

3.  Help them understand the functions of each group in a basic business organizational structure. This doesn’t have to be sophisticated or complicated. Simple definitions and examples will be enough to get them thinking like an entrepreneur. Here are a few samples you can use to start with:

  • Human Resources: the department responsible for finding employees and making sure employees get paid, get pay raises, and other benefits.
  • Marketing:  the department responsible for knowing what the customers want and need and how to price a product or service accordingly; this department is also responsible for getting the word out to the public about the product or service through promotions, discounts, advertising, etc.
  • Sales:  the department responsible for creating and maintaining relationships with the customers to make sure their needs are met and to entice them to purchase more.
  • Technology:  the department responsible for managing the technology used to support the business (computer software and hardware and network systems)
  • Accounting/Finance:  the department for managing the company’s money, making sure it will earn a profit
  • Operations:  the department responsible for executing the everyday, recurring activities of producing and distributing products or rendering a service
  • Research and Development:  the department responsible for looking toward the future for ways to innovate, to create new products and services or improve the ones that already exist in order to help the company beat its competition.

Talk about these in terms of a company who creates a product or service the kids can relate to (a soccer league, a toy store, an ice cream shop, a barber shop, etc). Give them scenarios and have them act out the roles with their friends. Using the ice cream shop as an example, you could tell them a new neighborhood is being built down the street and you’d like to get the residents to start coming to your store to buy ice cream. Ask them how each “department” at your store should respond to this goal.  When Marketing starts creating a promotion, the residents start coming. Then the ice cream runs out sooner, so Operations will need to order more ingredients at a time. Tell them that lines form outside the door and down the street, and customers start to complain. Help them understand they need to hire some more help to get the lines moving.  Have Accounting run the numbers to make sure the profits from the additional sales of ice cream is more than the additional expenses of ingredients and the new help.  You can have a lot of fun with this one.

After exploring these concepts with a familiar company, help them imagine what their own company would look like.  How many employees might they need?  Which departments would they concentrate in?   This exercise will help develop their vision for their company and prepare them for the next activity.

4.  At this point it’s a good idea to introduce them to the concept of a business plan and help them write one. This will help them learn the importance of goal-setting and to develop plans to achieve their goals.  It doesn’t have to be long, extensive, or perfect. Remember, the idea here is just to get the kids thinking of business plans in general to give them a great foundation to build a career on.  Resources for writing business plans can be found at:  http://www.bplans.com/

5.  Help them create a video to market their product or service on eBaum’s World or YouTube.  Once it’s up online, have them monitor the number of hits they get a week and ask them what they could to next time to increase the number of hits.

6. Finally, learn from other kids and educators.  Join and take advantage of the many programs run by organizations that teach business concepts and entrepreneurship:

With these six steps, teaching kids about business and entrepreneurship is easy and fun and will give them essential tools for a successful future, no matter whether they choose to be business owners or employees.

Jennifer Bouani is author of the Future Business Leaders’ Series™, including award-winning and Amazon Kindle bestseller Tyler and His Solve-a-matic Machine, a fantasy story that uses riddles, magic, and adventures to teach kids business concepts.  www.boujepublishing.com

Entrepreneur Extends Property Rights to the Extreme Poor

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

UPDATE: I have new information that addresses the question I had below.
Landesa: Property Land Rights for Extreme Poor

Entrepreneurship starts with property rights and I recently discovered this entrepreneur, Roy Prosterman, who started the world’s first non-governmental organization (31 years ago) designed to partner with governments to extend land rights to the extreme poor. His organization is now called Landesa.

See how Landesa is thriving now >>

Landesa Success Stories >> (some go on to open their own small businesses!)

I do wonder if they (or a partner) teach the new property owners how to manage their land and other resources so that they can prosper.  A few late payments to the bank financing the land and the dream would be gone.

UPDATE: I have new information that addresses the question I had above. According to Matt Lambert of Landesa, no loans are involved in their work. They work “with local governments who give land to small holder farmers so they have a stable economic asset to create a home, subsist on homegrown food, sell surplus crops to generate income, and use as they know best.”  Thank you, Matt, for clarifying that point.

“The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation.” –Ayn Rand

We Can Live in Harmony with the Environment by Choice, w/o Governments Eroding Our Liberties

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

This story excites me. Mankind can live in harmony with the environment by choice and without governments eroding our liberties. How?  Ray Anderson tells us how.

It all started when he read the book Ecology of Commerce (Paul Hawkins) in 1994 and applied logic to make his business sustainable. His business is already halfway to their goal to be at Mission Zero. His employees are “galvanized around this shared, higher purpose” and the Good Will is astonishing, superior to any amount that marketing could have earned.

At the end he does two cool things: 1) he adds happiness into the formula and 2) he recites “Tomorrow’s Child.” It will give you chills.

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