Unicorn Hunting Banned! Now we can all make a difference.

Andrew Barrie 30th October 2019
Blink and you might have missed. Scottish Enterprise, the national economic development agency has launched its new strategy plan “Building Scotland’s Future for Today”.  Under the auspices of new Chief Exec, Steve Dunlop, it reflects a radical shift. And I love it.

For too long now the signs have been there that we are not getting it right for the economy. Voices such as Fraser of Allander point to poor productivity, overdependence on a small number of companies, weak exports. They and organisations like Entrepreneurial Scotland blame low collaboration, an inability to scale companies and a fragmented ecosystem.

But Scottish Enterprise goes further. It now recognises the importance of inclusion, the need to help all of our resources, people and assets become great contributors to the economy. They are not alone in this shift. Glasgow City Council’s digital strategy identifies the need to be inclusive if it wants to meet its goals. 

Now, I know that for many, Scottish Enterprise might feel irrelevant. They’re not. Their influence is deep. They control purse strings, investments, grants, access to stuff, which in turn affects behaviour. And they have some responsibility for the toxicity which permeates the economic landscape now.

For too long they and other influencers such as universities, corporates and vested interests have sought to control the economy. They think they know how best to make a difference. Let’s introduce another programme, a new initiative, a prize, a quango, an investment bank. Let’s build the next unicorn, let’s gamble on a sector we think will succeed.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone means well. There are some great, passionate, honest people out there who just want a better world for our kids and communities (and the investment bank thing could have legs). They are my friends. But we have created an environment of exclusivity, disempowerment and fear. The opposite of what we all need to succeed and be happy.

“Don’t be a diva Andrew” I hear you say. I will talk more about this over on The Gen, but let me give you one anecdote now:

Last year I worked with about 20 early stage entrepreneurs. My idea was to create a media where they could post some ‘asks’ that were relevant for their business (things like “what is the regulation for blah” “anyone know who my competitor could be there” “does this technology stack up”) and we would find someone who could answer them. Simple? No. Everyone one of them was too frightened to post an ask because it showed weakness, they didn’t know all the answers. And if they didn’t know all the answers then who would invest in them, how could they win the prize. Bullshit. Conditioned by the world they live in where you are trained to pitch for a prize rather than build a business, learn resilience, collaborate, share.

So, I welcome Scottish Enterprise’s new approach. It’s going to be difficult, anything that changes the status quo will have challenges, not least internally and for those outside who have grown lazy and dependent on SE handouts. But Steve Dunlop feels like the person for the job.

We have all the building blocks to be part of an amazing economy. We now need to create the environment to make it happen. In my next public blog I will start the debate as to what that might mean.

Tags #strategy #scotland #scottishenterprise

Inspired? Join our community for ambitious indviduals on Community Lab

Join Community Builders