Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict


November 2009

Entrepreneurship State of Mind

I was a guest listener yesterday at the youth entrepreneurship day, organized by the MIT forum at the Tel-Aviv university. Not sure they really got it. But for the few that did get the message – it was a good event. There were two hi-tech entrepreneurs and one social entrepreneur.

At a the break we chatted about the various entrepreneurship styles and my daughter asked me if artists and musicians are also considered entrepreneurs. I said without hesitation that I believe they are. Then she asked me, “So, how do you define entrepreneurship? What is it really?”

That’s when I realized that everybody, including the organizers, the speakers and the audience assumed they have the same definition of entrepreneurship. But they don’t. Even academic research is not on agreement on this term. This day should have opened with a discussion, engaging the 200 teenagers present, trying to define, receive and transmit, what is entrepreneurship?

I have a problem with this narrow dictionary definition, because it forces me to be a little liberal on the definition of “a business”. An artist spending his time and efforts creating a work of art, sometimes investing money in the purchase of materials and then having to think through marketing his work to make a living, is not less an entrepreneur then our regular hi-tech entrepreneur.

And so is the guy that invests time and sometimes money in making someone else’s life better: the social entrepreneur.

But frankly, what I see in entrepreneurship is much more fundamental then this. I see it as a way of life, a mode of thought. For me an entrepreneur is one that looks at problems through the possibilities to solve it.

Going to young people’s pre-financial era, their childhood, I can recognize entrepreneurial thinking at kids, from a very young age. Stories that may seem totally insignificant at one point may seem different after years. Like this girl who wanted to play with the red bucket that another child grabbed. She didn’t try to grab it back. She simply convinced the other kid that the blue bucket is a lot nicer. Or the kid who, at school, suggested to the kids of the new immigrants, who speak Russian between themselves, to start teaching words to their Hebrew speaking class mates, bringing them all together. Or… think about Tom Sawyer and his solution to his fence painting problem.

Entrepreneurship is all around us really. Some people have the natural tendency to think like an entrepreneur, other may need to learn this way of thinking. We might not all become great hi-tech millionaires as a result, but what we do take, is control over our lives.


It’s Kidsville!

It’s kidsville time!!

I admit it.  I gave in to my youngest child and let him get an account on Facebook. Farmville was the trigger, and though he is apparently the first among his 2nd grade classmates to play it I am not convinced he is the first one to have a Facebook account. He started by playing Farmville with his brother (6th grader) and sister (10th grader). But his network of neighboring farms is expanding to include their friends and more distant family members.

CNN titled it “Social networks and kids: How young is too young?”
They mention, among other things, Susan Greenfield who was quoted on “The Mail”, an article which I already covered in my February post. How young really? My daughter joined on 8th grade. My son at the beginning of his 5th grade. And then my youngest at the beginning of his 2nd grade. That’s probably as young as possible for a text based network.

But here are two new facts to consider:

First, the PEW report published a day after the CNN item. It’s titled “Social Isolation and New Technology” which “finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the Internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – Internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.”

The second is this item, published on National Geographic about 2 weeks earlier, titled “Googling Fights Dementia, Study Suggests”.

So let’s stop and think for a moment.

What do kids find in social networks?

I think that … big surprise, the same as adults: Accessibility. Of people, of course. Why is it OK for me to use social networks to connect with colleagues who I never met and may never meet face to face in my life, from other parts of the planet, but it’s dangerous for kids to use social networks to connect to classmates or school mates or soccer team members who they cannot meet on a daily basis after school hours?

Well I am no fool. Some people jump at this question with the dangers theme. There are many dangers lurking around the cyber corner and these are more meaningful to innocent young kids then they are to adults with some life experience or to teens with some networking experience.

Yes, some teens are more network savvy then some adults I have met. They understand what details one never reveals, what information to present or not to present in the first place, how to block unwanted communications… They know the network’s right and wrong as well as they know the streets’ right and wrong and sometimes even better. Those streets that bear dangers to innocent young kids too – so what’s the difference?

The difference is that we know the streets, we feel that we can see the streets and imagine we can anticipate street behavior. However the network is perceived as not visible and unpredictable. Personally I might be a different mom. I fear I cannot see what is happening with my kids on their way home from school. It’s about 300 meters walk, through a path between trees, and it’s scarier in my view, then the time they spend online – either chatting or on social networks.

The Internet, as I see it, is a channel of communications which is here to stay. The question we are facing now is not how young is too young, or how to control the younger generation’s use of the network, but rather – how do we make it more visible and more predictable to us, their parents.

I keep remembering this “House on the Prairie” episode “Cross Connections” where they introduced the telephone and switchboard in the town. There will always be those who abuse the innovation, but can you imagine our world without a telephone connection??


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