NEW YORK – Last month I was in Kyiv, speaking at a conference focused on entrepreneurs. I wanted to give a talk that would be of general interest but also concrete. So I started with one of my favorite parables.
It is a familiar folk tale. A confidence man shows up in a village with what he claims is a magic stone. Put the stone into a pot of water over a fire, he says. Then just add a few ingredients – maybe some vegetables, some ham bones from yesterday, a few spices – and you will soon have a delicious, life-giving soup with magical healing properties.
Of course, this man is a trickster; the point of the story is that his magic stone is just a plain old rock. To modern eyes, however, he is an entrepreneur. His “magic” stone is perhaps the germ of an idea, a product concept, or a marketing innovation. The entrepreneur takes the stone and adds ingredients (commodities or software), attracts people, gets them to work together, and perhaps tosses in a pinch of branding. The result is value where before there were only unexploited resources.