Call out: Mark speaks with Danny Warshay, Danny Warshay from Brown University. Danny is Professor and Executive Director at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship at Brown. He leads thought provoking workshops on entrepreneurship and creativity around the world. He began his entrepreneurial pursuits while an undergrad at Brown when he was a member of a software startup team company called ClearView, which then was later acquired by Apple. Then he co-founded and sold companies and fields ranging from software to advanced materials, consumer products, and the media. Danny has created a road map for entrepreneurs with his new book See, Solve, Scale: How anyone can turn an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success.
Today, Commander Divine speaks with Danny Warshay. Danny is an Author, Professor, Advocate, Speaker, and Coach. He recently released his book on the entrepreneurial process: See, Solve, Scale: How anyone can turn an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success. Danny loves to teach what he learned in his years as an entrepreneur to inspire individuals to be the positive change agents needed on a global scale in the market of commerce. Danny is a devoted father, husband, and yoga practitioner.
“That’s part of the mission of the book is to debunk lots of myths that I think still persist about where you have to be from, what you have to have studied, what your background needs to be, what race or gender you’re from. All those are not at all true. And unfortunately, they hold would-be really successful entrepreneurs back because they feel like they’re not entitled to be involved. And again, hence the title, how anyone can turn an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success.” Danny Warshay
“They call it SEAL teams for a reason, not SEAL individuals. And so we know something about how elite teams kind of work and whatnot, and the inclusivity, and how everyone’s voice is important. And some of the best ideas come from the most unlikely corners. So one of the myths that I see that you dispelled right away is that you have to be a certain type of person to be an entrepreneur. In fact, it’s the team that makes the teamwork that makes the dream work” Mark Divine
“Inclusion is being asked to dance. And the evidence is really pronounced that if you have a diverse team that doesn’t actually allow people to contribute their true selves, all of what they come with, uh their backgrounds, their skill sets, their points of view, then actually, the data suggests that diverse teams alone, underperform homogeneous teams. And it’s only when you have a diverse team that’s invited to be their true selves, where you embrace all of what everybody brings to the table, that inclusive teams outperform homogeneous and otherwise diverse teams. So it’s really important to know all that.” Danny Warshay
“This principle of aligning with your passion, purpose or calling this ikigai principle, is central to what we teach, and we couched it in the terms of the hero’s journey. And so if you’re going to, if you’re going to go in and commit your life to starting adventure, you’re on a hero’s journey. And you’re going to have to go on a series of quests to, you know, to overcome certain challenges. And those are mostly going to be around your emotional maturity to be the person worthy of leading this team to the other side of the ground that you’re trying to get to. But also, the company is going to go through some serious challenges in crucibles. And they call that the dark night of the soul moment in the hero’s journey. And, and that’s when if you don’t have a strong why you know, like Simon said, it all starts with why. You know if you don’t know what that why is because you haven’t aligned your ikigai with your entrepreneurial pursuit, then it’s very easy to quit.” Mark Divine
“Exactly, the scale stage. In order to scale, that’s when you might want to layer on some additional resources. Once you’re really clear on what the solution is, that’s worthy of additional resources. But usually, that’s not immediate.” Danny Warshay
Mark Divine 0:00
Hi, I’m Mark Divine and this is the Mark Divine show. On this show I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational, intelligent, resilient leaders. I speak to folks from all walks of life, high powered CEOs, meditation monks, and professors who teach entrepreneurship like my guest today, Danny Warshay from Brown University. Danny is professor and Executive Director at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship at Brown. He leads thought provoking workshops on entrepreneurship and creativity around the world. He began his entrepreneur pursuits while an undergrad at Brown when he was member of a software startup team company called ClearView, which then was later acquired by Apple. Then he co founded and sold companies and fields ranging from software to advanced materials, consumer products, and the media. Later, after being asked to return to Bto teach entrepreneurship, he developed an entrepreneurial process that’s been recognized one of the highest rated courses on campus. And based upon that work, he’s got a new book out called See, Solve, Scale: How anyone can turn an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success. Danny, thanks so much for joining the Mark Divine show. Appreciate it all the way from, well, you’re not at Brown right now. But that’s where you’re perched.
Danny Warshay 1:10
I’m just a mile away. So you can say, and out the window I can see the Brown football stadium. So I’m kind of in the community, even when I’m working in my home office.
Mark Divine 1:19
Yeah. The closest I came to Brown when I was at Colgate was rowing crew. What’s the river down near where you guys row?
Danny Warshay 1:25
Seekonk River and the crew team is is really good. The Women’s crew team have recently won the national championship, the men’s have many times as well. And I know, Colgate has an fantastic crew team, too. So in fact, I often help with recruiting of crew members, and I even have some swag to prove that I have.
Mark Divine 1:47
Is that right?
Danny Warshay 1:48
I have a crew sweater. And it’s a really interesting sport. That takes a lot of dedication.
Mark Divine 1:54
It sure does.
Danny Warshay 1:55
I can’t imagine having done it myself, but I’m somewhat in awe of the people who have and so I’m impressed by the fact that you’ve done it.
Mark Divine 2:03
Yeah, crew is a real Gut Buster. And it requires a lot of discipline and fortitude but also cultivates those things. You know, in the in the young athletes. I think it’s a great sport. I was a second year at Colgate that crew existed. So it was just a club sport. So we were the pioneers who got the the crew team going at the Colgate and and now it’s a Varsity sport.
Danny Warshay 2:23
Yeah, one of my students from my courses at Brown. Anders Weiss was a crew student and also was in the last two Olympics.
Mark Divine 2:34
Danny Warshay 2:34
The US crew team and boy talk about training, dedication, and
Mark Divine 2:40
Danny Warshay 2:40
He was a superstar student, great athlete, even did his MBA in London while he was training for the Olympics. I saw him at a book event that I was at in Boston, it was very kind of him to come. He was there with his girlfriend who had gone to Harvard. So there was a little bit of cross rivalry Ivy League rivalry there. But it was really nice to see Anders. And he’s an amazing person all around.
Mark Divine 3:07
That’s really neat. It’s fun to hang out with people who are achieving at that level, both athletically as well as academically or professionally.
Danny Warshay 3:14
Mark Divine 3:14
And I think it’s kind of it becomes almost commonplace when you’re in an Ivy League East Coast setting, but it’s not, it’s not common for for most of the world. And I think it’s really neat to get to talk to you. What I love about people in your position who have been there, done that, and then go back and teach is you’re really able to distill the practicality of the theory and make it relatable and applicable, and also, you know, you get people busy doing stuff. And I noticed in your latest book See, Solve, Scale, that you actually reference students who’ve gone out and done pretty cool things. entrepreneurially had some great success.
Danny Warshay 3:47
That’s right. Well, first of all, I like the fact that you indicate that this is something that’s meant for lots and lots of different kinds of people, many of whom I’d say have been ignored or neglected or left behind by mainstream entrepreneurship.
Mark Divine 4:00
Danny Warshay 4:01
I think the statistics are pretty pathetic when it comes to certain types of people;women, people of color. And so very deliberately, I’d say the subtitle of this book, See, Solve, Scale is how anyone can turn an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success. And that’s what I’ve been teaching at Brown for all these years. We can talk about even you know, how did you get into that? And what’s it like to teach at a place that doesn’t have a business school that’s focused mostly on liberal arts. And that’s what made me realize that the entrepreneurial process the See, Solve, Scale process that I developed 17 years ago, when I got a very unexpected tap on the shoulder to come back to Brown and teach was something that anybody could learn, anybody could master and then anybody could apply to solving a consequential problem and you’re right. Don’t believe me? I’m not credible because it’s my own book, but so much more credible, are all the complete novices students who came to my classes, having absolutely zero background in entrepreneurship, and left with mastering a methodology that they then went off to start companies or ventures like the Casper mattress company, imperfect foods, a women’s clothing company called Lliberare, a, a women’s movement called the Pussyhat Project, as you know, a women’s supplement company called Pre-Mama all sorts of really good examples. And not just in business, because remember, if entrepreneurship is a structured process for solving problems, it can cut across all different kinds of contexts and domains.
And in the book, and in my teaching, I share lots of good examples of things that aren’t commercial in nature, right, but are still solving problems.
Mark Divine 5:50
I want to come back to some of those case studies and, and maybe, you know, look at them through the lens of one or different principles that you espouse in the book. But I do have a question, you know, you made a comment earlier that a lot of people have been kind of left behind or left out of the entrepreneurial process. You know, my view is that, that is true, but it’s also very different. Let’s say, when I graduated from Colgate 1985, you know, the access to capital, the access to knowledge and wisdom, like what you’re bringing didn’t, didn’t exist. And then I have an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business, there was not an entrepreneurship class to be found in a million miles. So entrepreneurship just wasn’t really something that was even a career path 20 years ago, or something that you did, unless you were one of those weirdos like Bill Gates, or Elon Musk, you know, who just just had this massive brain, and this real, you know, unique kind of composition.
And so early on entrepreneurship was considered to be, you know, it’s almost like the great man theory of leadership, right, you had to be like this special, unique attribute. And then finding capital was really hard, ect, ec. Now, because of globalization, and just the baby boomers and demographics, and what we’ve created primarily in this country, then then exported to the world is this capacity for pretty much anyone to start a business. And it’s even getting easier and easier every year that goes by because you have technologies that are like, incredibly simple to use, and almost free.
You know, like when I launched NAVYSEAL.com, which is my first business 1997, I bought the domain for for 37 bucks, but it cost me over $100,000 to build the website. Today, you can buy the domain for 4bucks, and you can put up the website for $9.99 a month. Anyways, what do you have to say to that department? Part of this, to me is just the nature of the times and may those good times continue, I might add.
Danny Warshay 7:41
Well, I think you may be right. Certainly there’s some good tailwinds behind the effort to empower anybody to be problem solvers to be entrepreneurs. You’re right, I think the context suggests that there’s a room for lots of optimism. Well, first of all, we have a pretty significant list of consequential problems that we do need to have solved good.
Mark Divine 8:04
Danny Warshay 8:04
And so it’s a good thing that we’re able to empower many more people who come from very diverse backgrounds, lots of kinds of people who would probably not have felt that entrepreneurship was their course, maybe they did feel back then I’m kind of your era as well. I graduated from college in 1987. And there weren’t a lot of startups around. I went to Brown, I was a history concentrator. I was a big proponent, then and now of liberal arts as the background for just about anything. And I fell into an opera, I was not one of those, you know, big heads like Elon Musk, or Bill Gates, or Michael Dell. But I fell into an opportunity to be part of a software startup that we built up and sold to Apple.
Mark Divine 8:46
Danny Warshay 8:47
And this was in the late 80’s. And to my students these days, I have to remind them that they were actually computers in the late 80’s.
Mark Divine 8:54
Danny Warshay 8:54
But you’re right, the whole continent, there’s no such thing as you know, Y Combinator, nobody would know what the word accelerator meant. It was just something in your car that you press down to make the car go. None of that context worked in our favor. I always say in Providence, where Brown is located. We were mutants. I mean, there was no other such thing as a startup, nobody can understand what that would have been today. It’s very, very common. It’s built into the fabric of Brown now, I’m the Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. We have 1000’s of students who take our courses and our workshops and…
Mark Divine 9:27
Is it primarily undergrad or graduate or combination of both?
Danny Warshay 9:30
It’s combination of both, I’d say the numbers reflect Brown generally. Brown is you know, just like Colgate is dominantly, an undergraduate institution. So I’d say the students who come through the Nelson Center tend to reflect that but we have really amazing PhD students and Master’s students and medical students who are also engaging in the process of entrepreneurship. So I am very optimistic. I think today more than ever, as you say, we have lots of the contexts that works in our favor lots of resources and lots of community and ecosystem accelerators. I mean, that’s true in Providence. It’s true all over the world. Because I teach all over the world. In fact, yesterday I was on the phone with some people in Cairo, asked me to come to their entrepreneurship bootcamp and summit where I speak, usually every year there, and now they’re expanding to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. So that’s the other big change is, this is not a US centric enterprise, if it ever was, and that’s part of the mission of the book is to debunk lots of myths that I think still persist about where you have to be from what you have to have studied what your background needs to be, what race or gender you’re from. All those are not at all true. And unfortunately, they hold would be really successful entrepreneurs back because they feel like they’re not entitled to be involved. And again, hence the title, how anyone can turn an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success.
Mark Divine 11:06
That’s a place a great place to kind of dive into one of the key principles. And, you know, I’m from the SEAL’s, right, and they call it SEAL teams for a reason not SEAL individuals. And so we know something about how elite teams kind of work and whatnot, and the inclusivity, and how everyone’s voice is important. And some of the best ideas come from the most unlikely corners. So one of the myths that I see that you dispelled right away is that you have to be a certain type of person to be an entrepreneur. In fact, it’s the team that makes the teamwork that makes the dream work.
Danny Warshay 11:37
Yeah, you certainly know that from the Navy SEAL’s in an acute way, that is probably something I will never experience. So I don’t need to tell you anything about that. Except that I think you’re right, a big part of the emphasis of the book is if entrepreneurship is a team sport, which it tends to be, only 16% of ventures are started by solo entrepreneurs. And those fail more often than those started by teams.
Mark Divine 11:04
Danny Warshay 11:05
But the question is, how do you form a really successful team and I walk you through that process. It’s about following your weak ties, not your strong one. So don’t make the mistake of forming teams with friends and family because those also fail more than the average alternative kind of approach.
Mark Divine 12:24
Danny Warshay 12:25
I drawn lots of really good data from Noam Wasserman. But you’re right, you touched on the two big watchwords. And their words that unfortunately have a bit of a buzzword feel to them, because there’s somewhat overused, but they’re important diversity, and inclusion. And I certainly support all the efforts of diversity, inclusion for societal impact. But in the context of what makes a strong, successful team and entrepreneurship, it’s diverse teams of every kind. They come from different backgrounds contribute different skills, they embrace different points of view. They comprise different personality types, certainly races and genders, but it’s not good enough just to be diverse. You know, the adage is diversity is about being invited to the dance.
Mark Divine 13:09
Danny Warshay 13:10
Inclusion is being asked to dance. And the evidence is really pronounced that if you have a diverse team, that doesn’t actually allow people to contribute their true selves, all of what they come with, uh their backgrounds, their skill sets their points of view, then actually, the data suggests that diverse teams alone, underperform homogeneous teams. And it’s only when you have a diverse team that’s invited to be their true selves, where you embrace all of what everybody brings to the table, that inclusive teams outperform homogeneous and otherwise diverse team. So it’s really important to know all that.
Mark Divine 13:50
Yeah, that makes sense. And I love the graphic that you have, where you show that a diverse team, you know, with the three overlapping circles, where everyone’s focused on the differences, or the sameness, you just get that you know, you get the power of that, that circle where they all overlap in the middle.
Danny Warshay 14:06
Yeah, you just have a small area where you overlap.
Mark Divine 14:09
Danny Warshay 14:09
And if you imagine otherwise, a homogeneous team, actually, those homogeneous teams overlap more.
Mark Divine 14:17
Danny Warshay 14:17
And they tend to outperform just diverse teams. It’s only where you have the inclusive teams, where you’re embracing everything that everybody brings to the table, those teams outperform. And that’s work from Francis Frying and Morris from Harvard Business School. And when I saw that graphic, I’m sorry, we can’t show it here. But it’s really a powerful way of understanding why both diversity and inclusion are really critical. And, in chapter seven of the book, I walk you through some very specific insights and steps. And it’s not about just relying on you know, your close contacts and LinkedIn or Facebook because those are your strong ties. And those will lead you to people who by and large are just like you
Mark Divine 15:00
Danny Warshay 15:01
And so you won’t find people who are different, you won’t. If you’re an extrovert, you probably won’t find introverts and you need both. If you’re a certain type of background, a tech person, and you’re looking for somebody who’s more of a humanities person, you may not because your near ties, your strong ties tend to look like you.
Mark Divine 15:18
Danny Warshay 15:18
And so I recommend some approaches, and I walk you through them, of approaching your weak ties, not your strong ones.
Mark Divine 15:25
I like that. So what if you are the founder person? You know, like, I’ve got this idea that I think is amazing. And so, are you suggesting that I go build a diverse and inclusive founding team or that once I get the team up and running, or the company up and running that I fill the staff up with the diverse and inclusive?
Danny Warshay 15:44
Yeah, no, I’m talking about the evidence from founding teams too. And it’s even more critical there for you to be able to set the stage send the right signals to the rest of the team, benefit from all of the diverse kinds of input that you would get from other founders. So very much from the beginning, you touched on something or you alluded to something, which is that, you know, if you have a really great idea, the way that I define entrepreneurship is a little bit different. It’s a structured process for solving problems without regard to the resources you currently control. And so if it’s a structured process for solving problems, you’re honest start with what’s the problem?
Mark Divine 16:27
Not the idea. But the problem.
Danny Warshay 16:28
Yeah, otherwise, you’re what I call at risk of being a solution in search of a problem.
Mark Divine 16:35
Danny Warshay 16:36
And that’s a really dangerous place to be and hence, the three different steps See, Solve, Scale… starts with the first one, which is see. And that means the anthropological and empathetic to be able to observe and listen to people operating in their natural habitats. And use that technique, which I call bottom up research, to find and validate an unmet need a problem that you may not have even known in detail. Start there, in fact, invest disproportionately at that stage. If you do that’s first stage, the See stage, well, the solve in the scale stage will operate naturally. And if you don’t do that, well, it’s like building a house on a faulty foundation, no matter how well, you try to build the house, it’s not going to hold up very well. So…
Mark Divine 17:25
You’re trying to fit your solution to a problem that may be better solved some of them…
Danny Warshay 17:29
exactly, the first step has to be See. And I see the alternative a lot, especially among tech people, my professor appointment is an engineering and so I’m surrounded by tech people. And they’re often very excited about all the new technology they’re developing. And then they go out and look for a problem for it to solve, rather than starting with a problem and then inventing something that can solve it.
Mark Divine 17:52
Yeah, I that’s, I can see that a lot with academic kind of entrepreneurial initiatives that, you know, are trying to take internally derived innovation and spin it out into, you know, non functional venture. And that is probably a classic problem, where you have this tech and then we’re like searching for a solution.
Danny Warshay 18:08
I think it is, right. Unfortunately, I see it beyond academia, too. I do a lot of work, advising and doing workshops and big companies. And they’re guilty of it too. You know, they have homegrown technology or products or legacy of a whole product line. And they then go look out for problems to solve rather than doing what I learned really well, after business school, I went to Harvard Business School, and then I worked at Procter and Gamble for awhile. I didn’t imagine that my work at P&G would have resonance later on in the entrepreneurship work I’m doing but it does. Because P&G is great at doing that upfront research to observe and listen to people in their own habitats to figure out what problems to solve. In fact, in that section of the book, the first stage, See, I shared two P&G examples about products that are very well known your whole audience would know them. They’re really surprising the stories, they’re really kind of fun and entertaining. And they’re really memorable. Lots of my students come back and say, do you still tell the Tide story is still the Dawn story because they’re very memorable kind of entertaining ways of remembering that you have to start by, observing people in their own habitats, not just asking them but observing them, as an anthropologist would to figure out what problem to solve.
Mark Divine 19:26
Yeah, love the story of the year, two students who hung out in the aisle of Whole Foods or whatever the store was…
Danny Warshay 19:32
Mark Divine 19:33
And learned that women, you know, just didn’t like a particular product, you know..
Danny Warshay 19:39
Right, they hated taking prenatal vitamins.
Mark Divine 19:41
Danny Warshay 19:41
And by the way, you mentioned crew, the CEO of that company, which evolved from the course it’s called Pre Mama, Dan Aizez. Dan was on the national championship Brown crew team.
Mark Divine 19:52
Danny Warshay 19:53
And what makes that story even better, although eventually I encourage them to have a diverse team just like we were saying, but it was for guys for athletes who knew nothing about what a prenatal vitamin was.
Mark Divine 20:06
Danny Warshay 20:06
And they use this bottom up research process that I teach in the book in the See stage, to observe and to listen. And to discover that women coming into Whole Foods who are pregnant or sexually active looking to get pregnant, hated, prenatal vitamins. They were they knew they had to take them for the health of their babies. But they made them constipated and nauseated. They were difficult to swallow, they tasted bad. They were broadcasting to everybody that they were pregnant, they figured out those are the problems. And then in the Solve stage, I put them in touch with some product development, people who might know, and they completely overhauled the way you take a prenatal vitamin, instead of a big horse pill, you take it through these powder packets. And then they did some other bottom up research to figure out other problems that women were facing, they had, again diversified their team. And were much better suited to do what I suggested earlier.
And they’ve outpaced lots of the main otherwise mainstream supplement companies who had more traditional ways of delivering those products. And what I love about that story I’m so glad you remembered it, is that it demonstrates you don’t have to be P&G in order to do this kind of right bottom up research. In fact, I find my undergraduate students the best at doing it because they don’t know any better. They’re happy to serve…
Mark Divine 21:24
That’s right, they don’t have all the biases and the thought patterns that you might find an internal teams that are trying to solve these problems from a P&G or something like that.
Danny Warshay 21:34
Exactly. Right. And it also illustrates this tension I described in the book, which is often a surprise to people, this concept of the benefits of scarce resources, and the burden of abundant resources. And we can talk about that more if you’d like.
Mark Divine 21:51
Yeah, I was actually that was the next jump off for me is, you know, you’re sitting here listening to this. And you’re like, Well, that sounds great, Danny, but you know, I don’t really I’m not sitting on a war chest. And I’m not really sure where to go. And, you know, I raised some money for my first business, which was a microbrewery. But everything else really kind of been a scrapper. And it’s there’s been pros and then there have been cons because there’s a point in time where you do want to go after some money and to be able to scale once you’ve solved the problem, right? And, and you need to grow that team out. But there are a lot of benefits to having scarce resources early on, you really just have to get laser focused on, you know, figuring out a solution that will work and figuring out how to scale it before you waste a lot of money.
Danny Warshay 22:31
Exactly, the scale stage. In order to scale, that’s when you might want to layer on some additional resources, once you’re really clear on what the solution is, that’s worthy of additional resources. But usually, that’s not immediate. In fact, once you found and validated that problem that’s worthy worthy of solution, in that first See stage, like the Pre Mama team did, then you move to the solve stage and you iterate and you figure out how to take some small steps forward, you’re usually not going to be successful right away. And that’s something that entrepreneurs have to tolerate. The tolerance for some failure, but it’s iterative. And then once you do figure out how to solve the problem, and it takes a little while, only then I recommend layering on some additional resources. But in the stage where you in the first two stages when you’re just figuring out what the problem is. And then especially in the second stage, where your iterating scarce resources provide you discipline, to fail fast and fail cheap as the saying goes to iterate quickly. And to discover an innovative solution with that, that might be worth scaling. Scarce resources also motivate you to collaborate with other people who bring complementary skills and experience. So that’s also a way that you might bring in some diversity by looking for other people to collaborate with. And those people in exchange require you to share the risks and rewards of your ventures. So that is related to the team issue we discussed.
On the other hand, and it’s I know somewhat paradoxical. It’s surprising, abundant resources, especially in the See and Solve stage can hinder you. And that’s true at the kinds of big companies we talked about, they force you to be conservative, because you were focused on preserving those resources. They prevent you from seeing new opportunities and innovations. And you might become too fixed on a particular outcome. They might make you overconfident. You know, some of the companies you’re envisioning before the established players, you might think, Oh, well, this is the way that it has to work. And we’re really good at that. I talked about a newspaper company called Nightrider in the book, and that, to me is a really good example of a company that got overconfident because they thought well, we’re a newspaper company and nothing can touch us and then came along the internet. And it was actually the young startups who had scarce resources that did better.
I mentioned the Casper mattress company, it was started by two of my former students, Luke Sherwin and Neil Pareek. At the time, the book came out just a few months ago, they were doing $400 million in sales.
Mark Divine 25:17
Danny Warshay 15:17
In a public company, it completely revolutionized the way that a mattress company worked, how it sold the product online, instead of a awkward showroom, how it was delivered in a box rather than, you know, through some delivery vehicle that you had to meet 100 nitrile they knew nothing about mattresses, except that you sleep on them. And that was their example of a scarce resources. They also had no money, no capital. But in the early days, it discipline them to take a few steps, correct. course correct, hypothesize, and when it got time for them to realize, oh, we’re on to something, we’ve revolutionized the way the mattress industry could work. They had a lot of people willing to share their resources.
That’s the second part of the definition. Remember, the definition is a structured process for solving problems without regard to the resources currently controlled. And so all the listeners out there, you mentioned, who are worried, well, this all sounds good, but I don’t have a big trust fund. I don’t have a big bank account. Actually, they’re in a better position than the people who have too many resources. And that’s often the challenge I find when I work with big companies, because they get arrogant and overconfident and they think, well, our resources will work in our favor. And they usually work against them.
Mark Divine 26:45
Yeah. You know, any entrepreneurship program that I’ve kind of stumbled across in a university setting, usually has like fundraising and you know, venture capital classes and you know, stuff like that, how to do rapid innovation and agile, and stuff like that. And I think that I’m focusing on those as an entrepreneur as a real problem. And you’re kind of like reinforcing that with this principle, that abundant resources is a burden. I was part of a software company brought in as an interim CEO. And then we went and raised a lot of money, right, I think 8 or $10 million from Sequoia ventures. And Sequoia brought in a new CEO and charged him was spending all that money. And they did. And so you’re gonna have later they were out of money again, and they still hadn’t figured out how, you know, we weren’t ready for that money, in other words, and so it became a burden. So if you if you focus on raising money as your first action, you’re wrong,
Danny Warshay 27:40
Right. And then and that money will bias you toward making decisions that you would not make if you didn’t have that money.
Mark Divine 27:48
Danny Warshay 27:49
And you can’t fail fast and fail cheap. If you have sequoias $10 million that they’ve invested. They want you to spend.
Mark Divine 27:57
They want you to spend it, yeah.
Danny Warshay 27:59
And they want you to spend it in a certain direction that attracted the money in the first place. It’s not impossible, but it’s much harder to go back to the board, go back to Sequoia and say, our hypothesis was wrong. We’re sorry, we’ve invested your $7 million, at that point, we’d like to change course, with the leftover 3 million. They expect you to invest and get it right. And instead it I acknowledge that you’re not going to get it right.
Mark Divine 28:26
Danny Warshay 28:27
Rather than trying to line up the perfect one putt. Just acknowledge that it’s going to be a three putt.
Mark Divine 28:31
Danny Warshay 28:32
And do it quickly and inexpensively. And eventually, when you know what the solution is. Yeah, that’s the time when it’s probably reasonable to raise the $10 million from Sequoia but you’re absolutely right, the mismatches, people often tend to leap from See to Scale.
Mark Divine 28:51
Danny Warshay 28:52
And they forget this middle part, which is actually where all the innovative action is. And I share techniques like the nominal group technique, which helps you integrate people who are both extroverts and introverts. Some of the work done in group some of the work done individually. I share an amazing technique, a really fun one, too, called systematic inventive thinking.
Mark Divine 29:16
I wanted to talk about that, because that reminded me a lot of something called TRIZ, which I studied a lot a while ago, which is a theory of invention. It doesn’t come from truth.
Danny Warshay 29:25
You are absolutely right. It comes from TRIZ. And it’s the same basis. Okay. In systematic inventive thinking, like TRIZ, the founders studied 10’s of 1000’s of patents. And they reverse engineered, what are the patterns that these the innovation patterns that these innovators used to come up with these breakthroughs in these patents, and it boiled down to five we don’t have time to go through all of them. But they’re really interesting to see. One is called subtraction, where you make a list of all the key components of a product or service that you want to innovate in, you remove one of the key components, and it has to be a key component. It can’t be like, you know, change the color.
So, an example might be, you know, you look at how banking was done a little while ago, with bank tellers in person at a bank. And you might say, Okay, let’s remove the bank teller. Now, what do we have left in those components? Well, that could be the basis of forming ATMs. Or even these days, take out the ATM while you might have, you know, something on your phone, that allows you to scan and do everything on your phone. So there’s five techniques, five creativity, innovation patterns, that systematic inventive thinking uses.
And I walk you through all of them. In fact, at the end of the audio book, I narrated the audio book version too, at the end, I have a bonus section with one of the founders of systematic inventive thinking, Amnon Levav. And some really interesting insight comes from him. That’s also available on my website, DannyWarshay.com. But that’s an example of a structured process.
Mark Divine 31:09
Danny Warshay 31:10
SIT systematic inventive thinking, belies the idea that brainstorming, just throwing a bunch of stuff up in the air, in a random way will produce anything useful? No, it asks you to be really strict about these structured processes, these five patterns. And it’s amazing what comes out the other end. So again, I don’t assume that anybody is born, knowing how to be an entrepreneur, any of the three stages, the See. Solver, Scale. I walk you through a process a whole bunch of processes, that are things that anybody can learn, they can master, and then they can apply.
Mark Divine 31:45
I love that. And I was deeply inspired by that, you know, systematic innovation, because it kind of blows a hole in the in that common theory that genius is a born trait. And, you know, it’s rare.
Danny Warshay 32:00
That’s one of those myths, again, that I’m very explicit about debunking. I talked about that right up front in the introduction, that entrepreneurship is not something you’re born with. It is something that anybody can learn. Otherwise, I remember when I was first asked to teach at Brown, it was in the engineering school. And I thought, well, what would it mean to teach entrepreneurship? And I remember this phrase, entrepreneurial spirit, you’ve heard entrepreneurial?
Mark Divine 32:36
Yeah, I have certainly.
Danny Warshay 32:37
Yeah, and I thought, I don’t know what the heck that is. And I certainly don’t know how to teach a spirit. And I said, Imagine in engineering, if we were asked to teach somebody how to build a bridge, we wouldn’t say you know, what, just go out there and have the bridge building spirit. And if the cars and the trucks come crashing down to earth, then just have more spirit, that would be nuts, we wouldn’t be allowed to teach anybody anything. Instead, in bridge building, you can distill some fundamental principles that all bridges have in common, a beginning, a middle, and an end with lots of room for all types of bridge variation, functional, aesthetic, operational.
And I thought there must be similarly a coherent process that I could distill from basic principles of entrepreneurship. And it also could have a beginning, a middle and an end. With lots of room for variation of lots of different kinds of startups. And that’s the basis of the See, Solve, Skill method. Like you wouldn’t say that, Oh, you’d have to be born with genius talent to build a bridge. Or if somebody wanted to be a French Pastry Baker, you wouldn’t say, Oh, well, they’re not born as a French Pastry Baker. You would say, no, you could teach them how to like, what’s the recipe? What do I do first? What do I do second? And why should entrepreneurship be any different? It’s not this mystical, you know, spirit that only certain people have access to. I know from now having over 3000 students, some of whom I’ve just mentioned, that anybody can learn it, they can master it, and they can apply it.
Mark Divine 34:00
Yeah. But what I would say if I were to be in like point counterpoint discussion with you is kind of back to your how we started this is that, the reason entrepreneurial spirit was even talked about in the early days was because the risk was so high. And so you had to have an adventurous spirit, you had to have a risk taking attitude and orientation in order to even consider going into an entrepreneurial adventure. And nowadays, it’s just a very, there have been so many pioneers that now who have settled the entrepreneurial land and come back to teach and share capital and share ideas and to support entrepreneurs and that it’s a very different risk factor or risk equation. And so it’s much more accessible. There people like you have developed roadmaps that say, you know, here’s the steps. And so now, it doesn’t require as much of a risk taking adventurous spirit where you’re risking your entire life savings or your reputation. You know, it’s and I can even say the same thing about military Special Ops. You know, when I went in the SEAL’s and in 1989, you know, I was an MBA CPA and I turned my back because it was a huge risk to turn my back on all that. And then my family business, which was back east and had been around for over 100 years, you know, so I was basically turning my back on the money.
My best friends from Colgate are running huge organizations. You know, one of my one of my best friends is chairman, CEO, global chairman, CEO of EY. And other ones CFO at BlackRock, these guys made it big.
And I was turning my back on all of it, it was massive risk. And yet, you know, I came out of that experience and able to integrate my business experience with my Navy SEAL experience with, you know, a lot of my other stuff that I’ve worked on training and created businesses around the and I’m catching up, right, when it comes to the financial piece.
Danny Warshay 35:44
Well, I mean, what what an amazing model you are for lots of people.
Mark Divine 35:49
That’s right. That’s kind of my point.
Danny Warshay 35:50
It reminds me of another principle that I talked about in the book, and I think you’re a good example. It’s this Japanese word ikigai.
Mark Divine 35:58
ikigai that’s right, love it.
Danny Warshay 35:59
Which is about living a life with purpose or meaning.
Mark Divine 36:02
Danny Warshay 36:03
And you certainly did that.
Mark Divine 36:04
That was that was the calling? Yeah, that was the calling to follow the purpose, right.
Danny Warshay 36:09
Right. And so you know, ikigai, these four things, it’s do something you’re really good at that might be drive, do something you really love that might be passion, do something that has purpose, that is going to add some useful meaning to the world, and do something that’s going to pay you fairly for the value you add. And I think, you know, you knew that in yourself in 1989, which I think is unusual. But somehow you did identify, I don’t know, if you thought about it in the ikigai terms?
Mark Divine 36:38
I didn’t come across that until much later.
Danny Warshay 36:40
Mark Divine 36:40
I thought about it in a similar fashion, though, with even three different diagrams. One was purpose, one was passion, which both of those are ikigai, and the third was my principles are my values, which became my ethos. And then I said at the center point of that is something that is my calling. And so I didn’t look at it in terms of a career or profession or avocation, was a calling. And so that calling was to be a warrior. And once I got clear on on the calling, the profession started to define itself.
Danny Warshay 37:10
I think that’s great. And you know, I wish more of my students can learn from that, too. But it’s a really important section of my teaching. And of the book, I talk about it now, upfront, the very first day of class, there’s a whole section in the book, because, let’s face it, you can learn the See, Solve, Skill method. But if it’s not something that meets those four ikigai criteria, if it’s not something you’re good at, if it’s not something you love, it’s not something that’s purposeful, if it’s not something it’s going to pay you fairly, you’re just not going to be successful.
Mark Divine 37:41
Danny Warshay 37:42
Or at least the odds are much lower that you will. And I even talk about a case study in the book of somebody who came to me when I was a venture capital, and in a very academic way, had all the boxes checked, looked like he had nailed every element of the See, Solve, Scale process. And I chose not to invest, because I could tell that this pursuit was not his ikigai.
Mark Divine 38:03
Danny Warshay 38:04
And there’s other really good examples, a woman named Emma Butler, who was shaking on the first day of class, she says, I had her write her own section of the book, because she’s she wrote it so much better than I would have. There’s videos of her on my website, she’s created a adaptive clothing company for women who have different shaped bodies that make it difficult and painful for them to use mainstream clothing. It’s doing incredibly well. And it’s so clear that it’s her ikigai.
Mark Divine 38:32
Danny Warshay 38:33
Ben Chesler, from Imperfect Foods was also one of my students. You know, his mission was how do you reduce food waste, he, he learned that 40% of all US produce is thrown out to the farm level, because it doesn’t look traditional. It’s perfectly ripe and nutritious. But it’s thrown out. And he created this imperfect foods company that raised over $200 million from venture capitalists. It’s doing over $250 million in sales.
Mark Divine 39:02
Danny Warshay 39:03
He employs 1500 people across 43 states. And the thing that he will tell you, in the book, and also on a short video on my website, is most important to him and his team is that they’ve saved well over 100 million pounds of food that otherwise would have gone to waste. There’s tremendous impact on climate change through all those kinds of things.
Mark Divine 39:22
Danny Warshay 39:23
It is very clear if you listen to Ben or Emma, that they are pursuing their ikigai.
Mark Divine 39:29
Danny Warshay 39:29
It’s like mentioning that and I don’t always talk to somebody like you who lived that so well. And so obviously, early in their life, and as you say that led to a career. But it’s so central to the teaching that I do and to the book I wrote, because I know it’s not an academic pursuit, it’s really important that this is something that you really love.
Mark Divine 39:51
100% and I agree that this principle of aligning with your passion, purpose or calling this ikigai principle is central to what we teach and we couched it in the terms of the hero’s journey. And so if you’re going to, if you’re going to go in and commit your life to starting adventure, you’re on a hero’s journey. And you’re going to have to go on a series of quest to, you know, to overcome certain challenges. And those are mostly going to be around your emotional maturity to be the person worthy of leading this team to the other side of the ground that you’re trying to get to. But also, the company is going to go through some serious challenges in crucibles. And they call that the dark night of the soul moment in the hero’s journey. And, and that’s when if you don’t have a strong why, you know, like Simon said, it all starts with why. You know if you don’t know know what that why is, because you haven’t aligned your ikigai with your entrepreneurial pursuit, then it’s very easy to quit.
Danny Warshay 40:42
It absolutely is. And I love Simon Sinek’s work. In fact, I quoted in the book, I have all my students watch his TED talk on start with why the value proposition elements I talked about in the second stage solve are, what are you developing? Who is it for? And most important, why should somebody care? And sometimes again, people miss that it’s the most important thing.
Mark Divine 41:06
I love that. Danny, this has been a fascinating conversation. I really appreciate your time, your book See, Solve, Scale: How anyone can turn an unsolved problem into a breakthrough success. Where would you like people to go to learn more about the book, learn more about your work, etc.
Danny Warshay 41:20
I think that that I’ll share a link with you. But the best, easiest way to say it, here is my website, DannyWarshay.com – DannyWarshay.com. There’s a whole section about the book, lots of bonus material, including short video clips from some of the students I had mentioned here. And also, there’s a separate LinkedIn readers group that’s been formed, you just search for See, SolveScale on LinkedIn. And there’s people from all over the world, which is really interesting and gratifying. And it’s my deliberate way of trying to nudge people together who come from different points of view, might be able to support and collaborate with each other. So I think those are the two best ways. And people often ask, how do you reach me, a lot of people are reaching me through my website, DannyWarshay.com, or LinkedIn is a good way to.
Mark Divine 42:09
Awesome. And I love the you mentioned earlier that it’s not just for entrepreneurship, you know, outwardly starting a venture that can go do something in the world, but intrapreneurship also, and even in the find, you said there’s you’re finding interests within the military and government agencies and using this book as a means for innovation internally in an organization, right?
Danny Warshay 42:29
It’s true. Last week, I did the first of what will be a series of workshops on See, Solve, Scale for the US Air Force. The Army is also engaging me to do some things, I had no idea that the military would find this appropriate or interesting, you certainly have a better point of view on that than I. And then yesterday, I was in touch with a very large restaurant franchisor, everybody would know their name. And they want me to help train their franchisees. And then I work with governments all over the world. I mentioned Egypt and Saudi Arabia, I spend a lot of time in the Middle East and Palestine in Israel, I teach at Tel Aviv University, usually each summer. And then I work with, you know, the US Embassy in Bahrain, big companies, nonprofits, all of them see that they have to solve problems, and realize that their workforce isn’t born knowing how to do that. And so I think that’s probably why the Air Force has asked me to do that, because they realize that their air force people are trained in really expert ways, militarily, but they don’t necessarily have a new approach to identifying and solving problems. And that’s what we’re working on.
Mark Divine 43:42
And like you said earlier, there’s no shortage of problems to solve in the world.
Danny Warshay 43:46
We certainly need more problem solvers. And so that’s my own ikigai. If I think back in my own career, I think, wow, you know, I’ve been really thankful that I got that fateful tap on the shoulder 17 years ago to come back to Brown and teach because I’ve had the opportunity, as I said, to teach over 3000 students, and as I’ve indicated, they’re doing all sorts of amazing things to change the world. And I know I’m better off for it. And I hope we all are.
Mark Divine 44:13
Yeah, awesome. We are all better off for your work and your book. Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us today. super appreciate it. And I’m gonna go out and I’ve got a copy of the hard copy. But I love when I can listen to a book in especially in the author’s voice. I imagine you read it. Did you read it?
Dany Warshay 44:30
I did you know. That was a weird thing, I’ve never narrated I never wrote a book.
Mark Divine 44:35
It’s tricky. Yeah, I’ve done four of them now. And it’s a lot of work right, isn’t it?
Danny Warshay 44:38
Yeah, it was my students who put me up to writing the book in the first place.
Mark Divine 44:41
Danny Warshay 44:42
He said, Professor Warshay, you’re not doing this third step. You’re not scaling. And I said, Oh, you’re right. And then the publisher said, we’d like you to narrate the book. And I said, I’ve never done that. And they said, no, no, it’s your material. You’re used to teaching who else would do it? And I said, Well, if you can’t get Morgan Freeman then okay, I’ll bet it was during COVID. And so they had to ship me a makeshift studio to set up in my basement. And for seven days straight, we had six and seven hour sessions with a audio engineer and a theatrical director on with me, weighing on every word. And if I swallowed a syllable, they said, no, no, go back, we have to do that section over.
So it was a really hard but really, ultimately gratifying process. And people have told me they enjoy the book in both formats. The funny thing is, I had no idea how many people buy audiobooks, I said, what percentage of this book will be audio?
Mark Divine 45:35
It is the fastest growing segment. It’s huge.
Danny Warshay 45:38
Right. And they said, it could be 50% of this book will be audio and had no idea. So there’s some companion, additional material that comes with it, and including the bonuses that I mentioned before. But Mark, this has been a real, wonderful opportunity to get to know you and your work. Thank you for all you’re doing to make the world a better place. And I’m honored to have been on your show today.
Mark Divine 45:59
Yeah, likewise, I really appreciate your time. And we will get this out there. And we’ll let you know when we go live. So that you can share it with your students or on your website or wherever, wherever you might do that. All right, thank you, sir.
Unknown Speaker 46:12
Man, that was a fantastic interview. I really, really enjoyed talking to Danny about the principles behind See, Solve, Scale, and the benefits of scarce resources over abundant resources. Having to have an inclusive team, not just a diverse team, and not really going at it to try to scale your business until you have found a problem. And you’ve learned how to solve that problem which is going to take a fail forward fast, fail cheap and iterate quickly kind of mindset. Very, very interesting show. super stoked to listen to the audio book, See, Solve, Scale and stay connected with Danny. Show notes will be up on our website at MarkDivine.com and you can reach out to me on social media @Mark Divine on Twitter and @ Real Mark Divine on Instagram and Facebook. The video version will be up on our YouTube channel. If you’re not receiving our weekly newsletter Divine Inspiration, consider subscribing at MarkDivine.com. Each week, I’ll send you my written blog and the show notes for the podcast and other really interesting things that I think you’d find useful and interesting. Shout out to my amazing team. Q Williams, Jason Sanderson. Geoff Haskell helped produce this podcast and bring incredible guests like Danny to you every week.
Reviews and ratings are very, very helpful. So consider rating and reviewing the show wherever you listen to it will help other people find it and continue to give us the credibility and the motivation to keep charging forward. The world is changing fast. We’re all on another Hero’s Journey post pandemic. I think our entire culture is on a hero’s journey. And if you want to learn how to dominate a hero’s journey and to overcome the crucibles of your life, then join us at SEALFIT and 2023 where we have a year long hero’s journey with four different quests. Each quest is a 90 day challenge where you’ll have a hybrid of an online challenge with coaching, group coaching and an event and each one of these is themed. The first quarter will be get SEALFIT . So you want to learn how to train. Think like a Navy SEAL. That’s the first quest. The second quest is to be Unbeatable. This is the integrated Five Mountain development of Unbeatable Mind. The third quest is the search for the inner warrior will teach you the principles to find your inner Satt Guru, your inner spiritual guide. And the fourth quest is to be sheepdog strong, so that you can take care of leading in Crisis or under extreme pressure. And we’ll teach you Quick Reaction Self defense, how to think and act with confidence under pressure and how to take care of any medical scenario that might come your way either to yourself or others so that you can be part of the solution. So hope to see you there. Go check it out at SEALFIT.com/show. And thank you again for your support. Thank you for being part of the solution in the world and for paying it forward. Till next time. This is Divine out.
Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai