Saturday, October 15, 2011

Leadership Start-Up Lessons from 5th Grade Entrepreneurs

My son Noah and his friend Frankie played at our house all afternoon on Saturday.  But it wasn't all play, as they disclosed at the end of the day.  For a good 3 hours, they hunkered over Noah's laptop and formulated the business plan for their new video game software company, to be named later.   Here's the first page of the plan, a mixture of website structure, branding (which is protected under the auspices of Deb Best Practices, in defense of our young moguls), governance structure and company values:

Frankie founded the Company-to-Be-Named-Later, so he felt that he should be the final word on all the decisions. "I started the company, why do I have to listen to Noah, or anyone else?" Frankie asked.  "I'm the boss, I make all of the decisions."  Frankie's father then coached him that collaborative leadership and decision-making was the best way to start and run a business from a values standpoint. "Or else you'll just cheese everyone off," Noah added.  Sometime during the second hour, Frankie fired Noah for not agreeing with Frankie's decisions.     Noah called Frankie on it, saying it wasn't fair.  Frankie listened to Noah's case, and hired him back.  Then they worked together on the Human Capital plan, below:

Although Noah was born 4 years after I left GE (where I started my HR career), this Human Capital grid looked eerily similar to a form that we used to prepare the Annual Human Resources review, rating the promotability and values of each employee.  Or perhaps we humans just like to sort things in 4 quadrants, and it's wired into our shared racial intelligence?

I particularly love the "Anger Issues" and "Stubborn" ratings:  ain't it the workplace truth?

Noah was rated GWT (Good With Tech), so he's been slotted into 3 jobs:  Tech Team, Video Game Development and Video Game Musical Theme Development.  "I'm getting paid half-pay for each job, because I have 2 jobs," Noah explained to me.  "Actually, I have 3 jobs, but I'm doing the music job for free."  I tried to correct him.  "But if you have 3 jobs, you should make more, not less," I explained.  Noah shook his head. "That would upset the rest of the team if I made more money than them.  I also don't want to cheese Frankie off by making more money than him, since he's the boss."  I chuckled.  At this juncture, the influence of UU Religious Education is stronger than Noah's exposure to his capitalist mother.  "Isn't rule number one at work 'Don't Cheese Off the Boss?" Noah queried.  "Not in this case," I answered.

Frankie and Noah made their presentation to the parents.  We were impressed, and made some suggestions.  "It might be interesting for the two of you to visit Vicarious Visions:  it's a local video game company started by two brothers who went to the same college as your dad, Frankie,"  I recommended.  "Yes, " Frankie's dad chimed in, "then you can sell the business and get a million dollars."  "And buy all of the parents houses in Vermont,"  I added, with a smile.  The boys looked at each and went back into Noah's room.  Noah the arbitrator came back out.  "This is a kids' company, and we don't want adults meddling," Noah informed us.  We respectfully backed down.

Apparently though, I'm part of their nascent marketing plan, as Noah is actually happy he's featured this week, and is instructing me to Tweet and Facebook this post as I'm finalizing it.

We hope they'll review their policies on excluding adults at some point, and consider hiring us.  Or at least give us stock options for giving birth to them.

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