Sandy Kennedy: Reflections as we leave a year like no other

Mistakes, learning, community and thank you. It is a personal business.

We stand at the cusp of the year. We look back over our shoulder at a year of great upheaval and peer forward with a mix of hope and fear.

As we stand here, take a moment to stop and pause. In that moment, there is both learning from 2020 and opportunity for 2021.

Here are four reflections (please rub out and insert your own)

1. It is a community sport. No one does it alone. The myth of the solo entrepreneur battling into the headwinds alone is just that, a myth.

It is a team game. It is a community game. Never have we been more reliant on our networks, our peers, our friends, on others we do not even know. We are part of something bigger, both reliant on others and relied on by others.We have seen extremes of collective endeavour and utter isolation prominent in 2020.

For 2021 we need to go further, side-stepping old battle lines and silos.

2. The best leaders are the best learners

We know now, for sure, certainty and control are just an illusion.

There is so much we just don’t know. Our context, be it our organisation, our market, our society is dynamic, continually evolving, changing. It is messy, turbulent, interconnected in ways we struggle to see.

Our only option, amidst it all, is to be curious, to keep learning.

If we stay still, stagnate, rely old habits or skills or expect the past to predict the future we will be disappointed or worse. 2021 needs to be a year of learning, trying new approaches, taking small steps, reflecting and adjusting the course. This approach will already sound very familiar to entrepreneurial leaders.

3. Aim high and own our mistakes. In Scotland, we have an uneasy relationship with both ambition and failure. Across the public and the private sector, amongst our politicians we too often jump to the defensive.

In other cultures, failure and mistakes are recognised as being valuable; valuable for learning, valuable to show vulnerability and build trust as a leader. Fear of failure limits ambition. Credit to James Watt of Brewdog for publishing his 10 greatest mistakes – from pink IPA to being too slow on climate. His LinkedIn post has gathered over 40,000 likes and 3,000 comments in just two weeks.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark,” said Michelangelo

The mediocre middle is Scotland’s weakness, not ambition or failure.

4. Say thank you. We rely on so many people, be it 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.

In that spirit, thank you Rachael Brown, who steps down as the Convenor of the Can Do Collective in January.

Rachael is an opera singing, effervescent social entrepreneur who for 20 years has inspired and supported young and old to unlock their creative, entrepreneurial selves in prisons, schools, boardrooms and the international arena (ask her about her primetime showing on Saskatchewan radio).

Thank you, Rachael, for two years of grit and entrepreneurial spirit building the Can Do Collective to 67 active entrepreneurial organisations, all aligned to build an entrepreneurial society here in Scotland.

On reflection, I am hopeful for 2021 and hold one certainty: Scotland’s future will be shaped by those who think, act and lead in an entrepreneurial way wherever they are.

(Article originally published in The Herald: