Creative Construction

After a long really fun day yesterday at TechStars and StartLabs I wandered over to 34-101 to be on a panel for Joost Bonsen and Joe Hadzima‘s IAP class 15.S21: The Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans. It’s not really a class about business plans rather a class about starting a business and has been regularly modernized by Joost and Joe. On the panel were the two founders of Super Mechanical (creators of Twine) which is an awesome project that used Kickstarter for its initial financing (and that I’m an excited supporter / customer of.) I had a fun day and wish I had found more IAP courses to help teach and participate in this trip.

After the course finished at 9:30, Joost and I wandered over to the Muddy Charles for a beer. When I crawled into bed at 12:30 my head was full of a ton of awesome ideas that came out of our rambling three hour discussion. I’ve been friends with Joost since the early 1990’s when we first met around the MIT 10K competition and have been a huge fan of his ever since.

Among other things we talked about the startup ecosystem in and around MIT and the evolution of Boston as a region. The comments in my post from yesterday titled I’m in Cambridge, Not Boston were great and stimulated additional thinking on this topic, as did Joost’s experience here over the past 20 years. Joost has incredible knowledge and history of the region and of MIT, which occasionally appears in posts like How Kendall Square Became Hip: MIT Pioneered University-Linked Business Parks but is really apparent when you spend extended time with him talking about MIT, how it evolved, what it is today, who has been involved along the way, and the entrepreneurial community that has evolved around it.

About mid-way through the conversation Joost dropped two phrases on me that blew my mind. The first was “Creative Construction.” As we were talking about startup communities and the new book I’m working on, Joost said “How about a play on words on Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” and call your theory about startup communities “creative construction” instead. After I put the exploded pieces of my brain back together and said “that is exactly fucking right” he went on. “Think of entrepreneurship as a tool of mass construction.”

The play on words is just delicious. And right on – we are talking about an awesome positive force in the world and should be using language that represents that. At the core of our conversation was the notion that an entrepreneurial region like Boston is actually a collection of 100,000 person “entrepreneurial neighborhoods” (that’s what Kendall Square is, as distinct from the Fort Point Channel area, or the Leather District, or what’s going on in Davis Square, or …). And the idea that creative construction drives this – and the neighborhoods are part of a broader entrepreneurial community (in the region) is a construct that resonates with me.

I’m off to HubSpot to give a talk, a swing through Venture Cafe at CIC, and then back to StartLabs for the rest of the day. My three weeks in Boston (well – Cambridge) with a side trip to New York is coming to an end. It’s been amazing, enlightening, educational, productive, and a lot of fun.

  • http://is.linkedin.com/in/balakamallakharan Bala

    Debt and Derivatives = Tools of mass destruction Entrepreneurship = Tool of mass construction,  brilliant

  • http://twitter.com/rorwhy Rory O’Rourke

    Not to be too much of a naysayer, but that really doesn’t make sense.  The two words are redundant, and you are implying the same thing Schumpeter was.  As uber becomes successful, cab companies will be forever changed.  Same for Amazon or BankSimple or any of those.  That’s capitalism.  What about words like sleak, insightful, explosive?  Explosive construction, now that’s a powerful play on words.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Rory – I’m confused. Are you saying that “creative” and “construction” are redundant? I don’t see that. Can you explain how you are interpreting it?

  • http://twitter.com/bcarcio Ben Carcio

    Brad, The door is always open for you. Just to add another area to mix, we’re in the South End, more specifically SoWa and the companies at 500 Harrison, BzzAgent, HelpScout, Promoboxx, Smarterer, Proctorcam, Swap.com, and design shops like Genuine Interactive and Alphabet Arm Design. Lots of good stuff going on down here. 

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Another great example of a concentrated “neighborhood” – very cool.

      • http://www.leeschneider.com leeschneider

        Don’t forget about Runkeeper in the South End too

  • DaveJ

    Spin works, but don’t try to pretend it’s not spin. Schumpeter’s insight was that innovation creates wrenching changes in the status quo, and that it’s ultimately good.  There are some people who focus on the destruction, and the point is that yes, there is destruction of the status quo, no, we shouldn’t try to preserve that status quo.  To call it “Creative Construction” is to pretend that the destruction doesn’t happen.  Entrepreneurs don’t need the euphemism, luddites and vested interests won’t believe it.

    • Anonymous

      I think you are exactly right.   I read today’s post right after reading Jason Calacanis’s response to Paul Graham’s message to “Kill Hollywood.”   What’s construction to one person is often destruction to another.

    • Derek Scruggs

      I don’t think entrepreneurs are the target audience. Rather, it’s for local governments, universities and other feeders. Plus, the best entrepreneurs still think about problems from the standpoint of constructing a solution. Steve Jobs didn’t organize his life around destroying things.

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        But, to link back to Dave’s comment, Steve Jobs did destroy of lot of incumbents (e.g Microsoft’s Mobile business, the entire supply chain of the cell phone industry) while creating magnificent new products. So it’s actually a reflective paradox (I think that’s the right phrase for it, but it might not be.

        • DaveJ

          I suspect that most entrepreneurs view it as creating change. In all change, something is destroyed. But there are a few entrepreneurs who are in it to crush the competition. This is especially true if the incumbents are entrenched and perhaps have behaved badly.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Interesting – I didn’t interpret it that way at all. It didn’t occur to me that it would be interpreted as “spin” but rather a “positive view toward change.”

      While you are having destruction of the status quo, you are having construction of the new. Just walking around Cambridge today looking at all the newly built stuff along with the razed land that used to be all the buildings on Rogers Street that I used to hang out in and around reminded me of this. The giant cranes are “construction” that was enabled by the “destruction that preceded it.”

      • FAKE GRIMLOCK

        CREATIVE DESTRUCTION IMPORTANT.

        BUT ALSO POSSIBLE MAKE STARTUP THAT JUST GROW NEW MARKET, DESTROY NOTHING.

        • DaveJ

          FAKE GRIMLOCK SHOULD NAME AN ACTUAL EXAMPLE.  I WILL SHOW HOW HE OR SHE OR IT IS WRONG.  TYPING IN ALL CAPS AND BROKEN ENGLISH DOES NOT MAKE TRUE OR PROFOUND.

      • DaveJ

        If the destruction preceded it, that’s a little different.  But pretty much always, a successful new business replaces something old – while creating more total wealth.  How about “Creative Replacement”?

  • http://www.samedayphysical.com/ Richard Weisberger

    See Davis  Wells, in his 1889 book, recent economic changes, who spoke to your point. He said: “all experience shows that whatever disadvantage or detriment the introduction and use of new and improved instrumentalities or methods of production may temporarily entail on individuals, the ultimate result is almost always an immeasurable good” and   “it seems to be in the nature of natural law that no advanced stage of civilization can be attained, except at the expense of destroying the value of the instrumentalities by which all previous attainments have been affected”. As well as “Nothing marks as clearly the rate of material progress than the rapidity with which that which is old and had been considered wealth is destroyed by the results o new inventions and discoveries.”

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I love that my insight – which is brand new to me – is 123 years old. Partly because I like the number 123, and partly because it just reinforces what is new for someone is not necessarily new.

      • FAKE GRIMLOCK

        ME, GRIMLOCK, REMEMBER WHEN THOG SAY “LOOK, FIRE RUIN BE COLD AND SHIVER IN CAVE INDUSTRY, BUT TRUST THOG, IT RESULT IN MORE CAVEPERSON JOBS IN LONG RUN”. 

        MOST IMPORTANT TRUTHS NOT STICK TO BRAIN, HAVE TO BE REDISCOVERED OVER AND OVER.

  • FAKE GRIMLOCK

    STARTUPS = WEAPONS OF MASS CONSTRUCTION. ME LIKE!

  • http://twitter.com/gregorywitten Greg Witten

    I absolutely love the Schumpeter reference.  One of my favorite insights from Schumpeter is that the lack of the entrepreneur will be one of the downfalls of capitalism, and I agree.  Successful entrepreneurs change the way society views and operates in the world by creating innovative and efficient products/services.  Bringing down the status quo and essentially putting people out of work forces them to explore new opportunities, innovate, and take risks when there back is against the wall.  Love the idea and the concept and feel whether it’s “Creative Destruction” or “Creative Construction” both are essential.

  • Anonymous

    Creative construction seems like a much better term.  As an entrepreneur building and bootstrapping a company, it’s similar to building lego toys with my nephew.  You work hard to follow a path, put together one piece at a time, add some bells and whistles, and hope your big brother doesn’t smash your hard work to pieces the moment it’s done.  

  • http://dissertationtoday.com/ dissertations

    nice post!

  • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

    Those 2 words together are like dynamite. That’s what startups are about: building stuff that didn’t exist before & being super creative at it.

    Creative Construction – that could be a great title for your book?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – I’ve been thinking about that as the title for the past few days.

      • http://engag.io/ William Mougayar

        I like it a lot. Cool. It spurs the imagination.
        – posted via http://engag.io

  • http://twitter.com/SouthernDove Jennifer R Love

    Yeah, ReInventive Innovation! It’s “Old School” ReInvented, or Improved Through Innovation… The Key to Success Is Finding It Within(USA)!

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