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Detroit Venture Partners

1050 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

Josh Linkner

You once wrote about "Pike Syndrome." What's one imaginary barrier that we struggle with?
One invisible barrier we have overcome is [the notion] that we can't start a high-tech company in Detroit. People often think, "I have an idea for an Internet company, but I can't start it here because I live in Warren." That's false. Our biggest challenge as a region and as a company is overcoming the non-stop negativity that permeates this region. The sky is only falling if we allow it to fall.

You have written that "creativity, innovation, and original thought have become the currency of success in the new generation of business (and life)." However, in lean times art programs are the first cuts from educational institutions while math and science...even sports... are held sacrosanct. Is this the right course?
My son is working on long division. I have never used long division once in my career. However, the skills I learned from jazz absolutely translate into the business world. The ability to improvise, to take responsible risks, to work as a team. Fear is driving the wrong choices in school. Because we get scared during budget cuts, we think art is meaningless and math isn't. That couldn't be further from the truth.

You talk about fear driving decisions, which seems to happen a lot in this region. Do you agree?
Fear drives all kinds of decisions. It's the biggest inhibitor of creativity. I could have a great idea but I might say, "If I tell someone about my idea am I going to look foolish? What if they don't like my idea?" That fear is disabling. One of the things we need to do as business leaders is build and nurture cultures that encourage responsible risk taking so making mistakes is OK.

Why is it so hard for our culture to appreciate the economic and innovative value of instruction that fosters creativity?
It's difficult to measure because creativity is a nonlinear thing. It's like hitting a rock with a hammer. You can hit it 100 times before it busts open. It didn't break because of that last blow to it. It was a cumulative effect. By hit No. 95 it looks like you're banging on a rock and making no progress, but you are. We need to allow that process to unfold in a nonlinear way.

Is entrepreneurship a skill that is inherited, learned, or some combination of the two?
I really believe it's learned. There is a great Harvard study that asks the same question about creativity. Is it born or developed? It turns out creativity is 85 percent learned behavior. That means the least-creative person in the world is 85 percent as creative as Leonardo da Vinci or Paul McCartney. Just because they have that much potential doesn't mean they bring it to the surface. Entrepreneurship is probably something similar.

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