I was going through some old files and found the convocation address I delivered to the University of Texas School of Information graduates back in May of 2012. I think it applies to entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs as much as it does for newly minted graduates. Enjoy!

2012 University of Texas School of Information Convocation

“The Journey”

Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am humbled and honored to be here to deliver the 2012 convocation for the University of Texas - School of Information. Without a doubt, I am with the smartest graduates on campus.

I would like to first acknowledge the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances – anyone who had a hand in your son or daughter earning a degree.

Your son or daughter has earned a Master’s Degree or PhD from one of the top universities in the world from a top 10 School of Information. Not too shabby! Well done and congratulations!

Next, I would like to acknowledge the most talented students at UT sitting before me...

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I am reading plenty of articles about how it is not necessary to have a business plan and creating one is a waste of time. So, you may be asking, do I need to invest the time to develop a business plan? I believe the answer is yes. But make sure you are using it more as an exercise in thinking through your business than some kind of in-stone work of art that will flawlessly guide you for the next five years. It is a tool to help understand your business from various angles.

I often joke business plans are good for about 20 minutes and then become outdated. But the exercise in thinking through your target market, your product offering, the value proposition, the competitive landscape, your distribution strategy, your financials and your team goes well beyond 20 minutes. In fact, I think it is a necessary step for your startup or small business.

A business plan is not limited to just a startup. When I was at AT&T Knowledge Ventures, we wrote...

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I just finished the book by Rowan Gibson called The 4 Lenses of Innovation. It is a great book full of not only inspiration but also practical advice on how to innovate whether you are a startup, small business or a corporation. I really like his approach highlighted below.

1. Challenging Orthodoxies

This is really about asking tough questions and challenging the status quo or stated orthodoxy. The book highlights how Michael Dell asked if computers could be sold directly to customers via the web bypassing the retail channel? Or how Elon Musk (Tesla) asked if electric cars could have performance, long range capability and style?

For many startup founders, the very nature of their business is asking "what if" and delivering on it to add value to the customers. For intrapreneurs it's more of a delicate dance as challenging the current orthodoxy may upset the performance engine or the current way the business is run. But it is critical to continuously ask "what if" and if...

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