Reflections on saying farewell to a year like no other


Errors, learning, culture and thanks. It’s something intimate.

We stand on the verge of a new year. We look back on a year of great upheaval and, with a mixture of hope and apprehension, we look ahead.

Let us take a moment, as we stand here, to pause and reflect. There are lessons to be learned from 2020 and prospects for 2021 at this point in time.

Here are four factors (please erase and insert your own).

1. It’s a sport for the community. Nobody’s doing it alone. The solo entrepreneur’s theory of facing headwinds alone is just that, a myth.

It’s a game for a band. It’s a game about culture. Never have we been so dependent on our networks, our bosses, our associates, people we don’t even know. We are part of something larger, both reliant on others and reliant on others. We have seen extremes of joint effort and utter isolation in 2020.

We need to move faster by 2021, leaving behind old battle lines and silos.

2. The greatest leaders are the best teachers.

We know for sure now that safety and control are just an illusion.

There’s just too much we just don’t know. Our context is complex, constantly evolving, shifting, be it our organisation, our business, our culture. In ways that we fail to see, it is unpredictable, tumultuous, and interconnected.

In the midst of all this, our only choice is to be curious and keep learning.

We’ll be frustrated or worse if we keep silent, stagnate, rely on old habits or abilities, or expect the past to predict the future. A year of studying, testing new approaches, taking incremental measures, reflecting and changing course must be the year 2021. To entrepreneurial leaders, this strategy will already be very familiar.

3. Goal high and own up to our errors. We have a difficult relationship in Scotland, with ambition and disappointment. We too frequently get defensive in both the public and private sectors, and with our leaders.

Failure and errors are regarded as useful in other societies, valuable for learning, valuable for displaying weakness and building trust as a leader. Fear of failure constrains optimism. Thanks to Brewdog’s James Watt for sharing his 10 greatest mistakes – from pink IPA to a climate that’s too sluggish. In just two weeks, his LinkedIn post got over 40,000 likes and 3,000 comments.

“The greater danger for most of us is not setting our sights too high and failing, but setting our sights too low and failing,” he said

The mediocre milieu is the weakness of Scotland, not ambition or disappointment.

4. say “thank you.” We rely on so many people, whether it’s those we know, our colleagues, our friends, our mentors or those we don’t know, our role models, the unnamed person who warms your day with a smile.

We are all connected. Take a moment to say thank you.

On that note, thank you to Rachael Brown, who is stepping down as Convenor of the Can Do Collective in January.

Rachael is an opera-singing, exuberant social entrepreneur who has spent 20 years inspiring and supporting young and old to unleash their creative, entrepreneurial selves in prisons, schools, boardrooms and on the international stage (ask her about her primetime show on Saskatchewan radio).

Thank you, Rachael, for two years of courage and entrepreneurial spirit in building the Can Do Collective into 67 active entrepreneurial organizations, all focused on building an entrepreneurial society here in Scotland.

Reflecting on this, I am hopeful for 2021 and have one certainty: the future of Scotland will be shaped by those who think, act and lead entrepreneurially wherever they are.

Sandy Kennedy is CEO of the Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation


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