Thinking critically key to success

Devine musings – by John Devine

What’s worse than being too busy? Not being busy enough. Entrepreneurs will testify to the truth of this. Just ask any of creative denizens of that downtown hub of innovation, The Creative Space.
It’s common knowledge that small business is the engine of the economy, especially these days when so many of the big players have either downsized, collapsed or simply moved offshore. Many of those downsized by the shifting winds of commerce have picked themselves up and embarked on new careers as entrepreneurs, creating growth and wealth for the community, and opportunity for citizens seeking a better tomorrow.
It’s almost like a seasonal cycle: the old sheds what it no longer needs or wants, those seeds fall to the ground and are reborn as new growth. Sounds like something Chance might have said in Being There.
They join other, perhaps younger entrepreneurs who want to call their own shots, building their own futures. The Creative Space is home to such resourceful, ambitious and focused people. Indeed, the hub, brainchild of Chad and Sandra Ballantyne, is perhaps the largest collection of workers under one roof, with the probable exception of City Hall, in downtown Barrie. The interaction of these business owners with other downtown enterprises is already having a positive impact, as they go out for lunch, perhaps a drink after work, and wine and dine prospective clients.
A key similarity to all successful entrepreneurs, and established businesses for that matter, is the ability to think creatively and strategically. Of course, that’s true in all walks of life, but most certainly in business and career development. Even those currently employed full-time by a business must think creatively. These days, if they aren’t, they likely won’t be employed for long, or the business will suffer – either way, not a happy outcome.
In another life, beyond the rainbow, as editor of a group of local newspapers, I considered the ability to think creatively, with an entrepreneurial mindset, a sign of a good journalist. That’s even more critical in these days of multi-platform journalism, where news is almost instant and readily available. How do you make those platforms – online, mobile, tablet and print – unique and relevant? It requires journalists and media managers to think critically about the content they are providing, and how it could be most meaningful to the community.
I did a lot of work for Newspapers Canada, interviewing industry leaders on trends and developments. One interview was with John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media – an American-based firm that includes the newspaper group the Journal Register Company. An early proponent of a digital first strategy, I recall him telling me that future journalists would need to have an entrepreneurial base to succeed in an increasingly competitive media environment, one in which traditional media would be shedding legacy costs to compete with online content sources, like The Huffington Post and others.
Schools are already picking up on this trend. The City University of New York Graduate school of Journalism, for example, launched a centre for entrepreneurial journalism in 2010, to instil business savvy in new journalists. For more on this, check out CUNY’s entrepreneurial class of 2012. It speaks to the notion that opportunities for tomorrow’s journalists might not be in the form of traditional employment, but rather the contracting of services to one or more media companies.
This development can also be seen today as legacy media outsource a variety of jobs, from page layout to editing. If this is the future, the journalist with an entrepreneurial foundation will be well placed to benefit from this ongoing, and apparently permanent shift.
The ‘Great Recession’ has taken its toll on the old economy, including the newspaper industry, which, it must be said, has reacted with innovation and optimism to the challenges and opportunities before it. It’s apparent the industry continues to employ talent that thinks critically about tasks at hand, as well as the road ahead. That’s good news for a community, as well as democracy itself. Good journalism is key to good governance. Without it, we’d all be like mushrooms – sitting in the dark and fed bullshit.
Any enterprise, including journalism, needs people to think creatively – to be entrepreneurs – to survive. If you want to see that principle in action, drop by The Creative Space for a shot of innovation in action.

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