This ‘joke’ format is as old as the hills, but how would we answer that question for the entrepreneurs of the 21st century? How many such entrepreneurs DOES it take to change a lightbulb? The answer is apparently none, because of progress:
1. They are too busy looking for investors for their patented kinetic glowing ceiling;
2. They have outsourced home improvements to India and arranged for it to be done while on vacation at Lake Tahoe;
3. The bank of LEDS are controlled by an app on their smart phone;
4. The re-engineered lightbulb regenerates automatically;
5. They are busy examining what change means – does it mean replace the bulb or alter what we consider the function of a lightbulb to be.
We probably will have lightbulbs for a little while yet, but emerging entrepreneurs should be learning the business case for making our world a better place, in terms of both the planet and individual consumers. i.e. Does your product improve my world? If not forget it because I’ll tell everyone in my network who will tell everyone in their network and so on and you won’t make it out of the blocks.
So how do entrepreneurs determine what products will do the job of improving our planet to creat wealth, add value? Business models based on monologue with consumers (create something and people will buy it) seem arrogant and risk being out of touch. Business models that have authentic dialogue with consumers are more likely to have the resilience that the pace of change demands. Furthermore there are clearly huge amounts of data that we can already access, and the platforms to create and analyse yet more are becoming increasingly sophisticated. But progress lies beyond dialogue and crunching data. This is about creating a level of engagement that not only invites the customer to create content and develop products, but also entrusts the responsibility for future growth with the conscious and unconscious ‘consumer collective.’
Perhaps the question ‘how many entrepreneurs does it take to change a lightbulb’ is therefore the wrong question. A better question for nextgen entrepreneurs might be ‘how can we change light together?’