Credit bureaus were supposed to help consumers get access to capital and to build positive reputations. But a new generation of data-driven entrepreneurs say these backward-looking models no longer serve us. Some ingenious new models use AI and behavioral economics to expand credit and opportunity to those left out. And they might just bring down the big bureaus in the process.
Read the story in Fast Company.
Kristen and Matt Wilsey knew something was wrong with their daughter Grace from the moment she was born. But it would take months for them to learn that she had an ultra-rare genetic disease with no cure in sight. Knowing that traditional pharma would never save his daughter, Matt, a tech entrepreneur decided to attack the problem the Silicon Valley way — with venture capital, radically open collaboration and a seat at the table for end users. Just as he'd hoped, the startup attracted some of the best brains in medicine and, against all odds, hope for his daughter. The Wilsey's story offers important lessons for any entrepreneur with a passion for solving a problem few others care about.
I wrote about the Wilseys and the doctors they're working with for Fast Company. Check it out here.
Detroit’s Humble Design, which remakes the living spaces of the recently homeless, shows the huge benefits of embracing people’s basic humanity when designing solutions to their problems.
Read the piece in Fast Company.
We’ve all know someone who shows the markers of ADHD — impulsiveness, restlessness, absentmindedness — but despite (or maybe because of these traits) has been successful at forging his or her own path. Indeed, ADHD and entrepreneurialism have longed been linked by anecdote and legend.
In this installment of my Fast Company series, Less of the Same, I had a fascinating conversation with a Syracuse researcher who has gathered solid evidence that ADHD, when well managed, can be an entrepreneurial superpower. Johan Wiklund, who himself recently discovered he has ADHD has linked impulsivity to an ability to act in highly uncertain situations that may cause others to freeze. He also has found that hyperactivity can lead to experimentation, commitment and resilience in the face of failure.
“The [ADHD entrepreneurs] I studied struggle,” Wiklund told me. “But if they had a chance to be like everyone else, none of them would take it.”
A case in point is is Keith Lemer, the CEO of WellNet Healthcare, a $150 million a year health insurance provider. Keith says he has learned to manage and even gain advantage from his non-typical ways of operating. He says it takes effort not to talk a mile a minute, not to show impatience or to tune out in meetings when he gets bored. But he says his ADHD also allows him to hyperfocus when he needs it and to shrug off the inevitable failures he experiences.“I have to work very hard to be Keith Lemer, the put together CEO,” he says. “Inside I often feel ongoing chaos.”
This article allowed me to get deep into the unusual minds of Wiklund and Lemer. What I found is that ADHD is indeed a disorder with plenty of serious pitfalls but also solid advantages we all could benefit from understanding and harnessing.
This Fast Company article is about two entrepreneurs: Suzy Bátiz, who invented a wildly successful bathroom odor suppressing spray, and Jeff Sinelli, founder of Which-Wich, a sandwich shop that now has 500 locations. As I listened to their founding stories what interested me most was how they perceived their own creativity.
Like most of the hundreds of entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed over the last two years, they didn’t follow an entirely rational process leading step by step too a winning formula. Rather their creative ideas struck them like "a slap in the face," as Sinelli recalls. Bátiz also describes it as something she felt viscerally, “I had an experience in my body where I felt I had to do this. There was no question," as Batiz said to me.
It was an "aha moment" that they could not ignore.
In this piece I explore Suzy and Jeff’s aha moments along with what science and cognitive research tell us about these pivotal experiences. Are they the stuff of pure luck? Or simply the stories we like to tell ourselves after the fact? Or are they something else altogether? Could we multiply these aha moments in our lives by preparing for them, and being more attuned to their occurrence?
Read the piece here to find out more.
The first thing Ed Catmull said when we sat down in his Emeryville office was this: "People assume we've got it figured out. That's a real problem." I knew then that he well understood this common creative dilemma, and would have ideas about how to break out of it.
For the first time in recent memory, Pixar won't be in the running at the Oscars for a best animated feature award. I'd read the buzz about why this might signal the end of the studio's decades-long run of success. But Catmull revealed why losing the top spot to Disney, at least for now, was part of a pattern he both accepted and, in fact, had intentionally helped to create.
In the second installment of my Fast Company series Less of the Same, Catmull and I explore the power of competitive collaboration and of disrupting one's own thinking. They have proven to be important tools for Pixar in facing change and adapting to it.
This week I launched my new series for Fast Company called "Less of the Same"— a collection of stories about inspiring individuals who, in the face of threats that are seemingly beyond their control, have chosen to act in counterintuitive and unexpected ways. In doing so, they have achieved even greater success.
The first piece tells the story of Shereef Bishay who sold Dev Bootcamp when he realized it no longer matched his personal mission. Shereef has recently created Learners Guild, a radical new approach to education and job creation.
At the end of my senior year in high school, I was required to find an internship. Up until that point, school had come easily to me. That is to say that I had mastered the art of emphasizing those things at which I excelled and avoiding those things that gave me a hard time. In this way, I was able to fool my teachers and myself that I was on my way to success. So when it came time to choose an internship, I stepped out of line with my classmates who were earnestly heading for stints with fashion design companies, scientific laboratories and law firms. I chose to work at a gas station. It was my way of saying to my school, “Thanks, but I don’t need to learn anything more.”
What followed was six weeks of utter humiliation.
The “gas station” turned out to be a repair shop, staffed by master mechanics. Initially glad to have an extra pair of hands, they started me out with easy assignments — repair a door handle, pop out a dent, change an oil filter. With no experience and even less natural skill, I managed to stretch each of these tasks over days of frustration. I often did more harm than good to the cars as the mechanics watched me with utter bewilderment. After trying dozens of new ways to further dumb down their instructions, they eventually gave up on me, putting me out to pasture rearranging cars in the lot. I was fired the next day after backing a tow truck, hard, into five different customer vehicles without noticing what I had done.
The experience left me utterly broken down, no longer holding a false sense of my own superiority. Over the years, I’ve sought to repeat it (though with less damage to those around me), putting myself in situations that revealed myself to possess a below-average level of talent: hang-gliding, singing, acting. I’d done these things on instinct, noticing that after each brief foray, my creative thinking would be sharper and more fresh. More recently, I’ve discovered a good deal of science behind why this habit works. Put simply, spending time outside of your domain of knowledge and achievement helps you avoid three common cognitive traps that block creativity in individuals and organizations: The Hot Stove Effect, Entrenchment and The Better than Average Effect.
Read the complete article here.