Pascal Finette is a well-respected entrepreneur and innovation expert with a wealth of knowledge and insights to share about achieving success in the business world. Having led entrepreneurship and open innovation tracks at Singularity University, Pascal is an experienced mentor and coach with a focus on amplifying positive change in the world. He is an advocate for finding companies with a greater purpose and mission, and emphasizes the importance of taking risks and being open to new opportunities. Pascal has also recently released a book, Disruption: How to Decode the Future, Disrupt Your Industry, and Transform Your Business, which shares his insights on innovation and navigating disruption in the business world.
Pascal provides insights into the mindset and experiences of a successful entrepreneur and innovator. In this episode of the Unlearn Podcast, host Barry O’Reilly converses with Pascal Finette about the importance of purpose, community, and an innovative, risk-taking spirit. He shares his story as he encourages listeners to follow their intuition and take action.
Following Your Intellectual Curiosity
Rather than being guided by a clear plan or strategy, Pascal relied on his gut feeling to guide him towards interesting opportunities. While his resume looks impressive in hindsight, he acknowledges that in the moment, his decisions never seemed to make any sense. By being willing to say yes to opportunities that presented themselves, he was able to forge a unique path that ultimately led to success. This eagerness to take risks and try new things is an important trait for anyone looking to innovate and create change in their personal or professional life. As Pascal puts it, “if it doesn’t work out, it’s fine.” [Listen from 2:15]
Some people struggle with being willing to try new things and pursue what they’re curious about, Barry shares. He asks Pascal how he finds the courage to go after what piques his interest. Risk-taking is an inherited trait in his family, Pascal responds, as his father was an entrepreneur himself. Additionally, he understands the privilege he has, being well-educated, white, and middle-class, and uses it as a stepping stone. He feels an obligation to take risks, given his background and opportunities, and to make a difference in the world. [Listen from 3:40]
(Listen to Following Your Intellectual Curiosity with Sharena Rice)
Finding Your Why
Pascal loves working with companies that have a larger mission and provide opportunities for people to make a living. One of the companies Pascal worked with is eBay, where he helped people sell goods and make a living. He shares a personal anecdote about a disabled American eBay seller who was able to buy a house through the opportunities eBay provided. Pascal believes in companies that have a greater purpose and are more than just about optimizing customer clicks for advertising dollars.
Barry and Pascal discuss the importance of finding purpose in work, particularly for younger generations like Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Working for a company that has a bigger mission than just making a profit and fits with your personal value system is imperative to finding success. [Listen from 7:25]
Open innovation is about creating a community of people, including customers and collaborators, for the purpose of building something together. This is based on the principles of how communities work together, such as how the Amish build a church or a building. The idea is to apply these principles to the world of business to create something greater than what one organization or team could create on their own. Companies like Mozilla have made their code open source, inviting people to contribute to make it better for the benefit of everyone. In its heyday, something like 40% of Firefox’s code was written by volunteers, Pascal points out. [Listen from 11:15]
Barry discusses the challenges of opening up systems to the community, with some companies believing that they have to create everything internally or have all the capabilities and capacities to do things. They also often have concerns about protecting their intellectual property and preventing people from using their code to do nefarious things. Counterintuitively, by opening up systems, companies can create more and activate a community to help them create something that is greater than what they could create alone. However, it is essential to give the community a reason to be part of the project and not just offer crumbs, he shares. [Listen from 13:40]
Decentralized Organizations and Their Organized Chaos
People want to rally around a shared purpose. When people are given a way to contribute and can see how their contribution brings value to the community, they are more likely to get involved and remain invested in the community’s success. Giving people purpose and ownership can lead to organized chaos. Barry notes that while it is important to give people ways to contribute to the community, it can also be challenging to direct people’s efforts in a way that benefits both the community and the business’ needs. However, this organized chaos can lead to great results when people are given the freedom to explore and create.
There is a growing interest in Web 3.0 technologies and decentralized organizations. Pascal highlights the potential for communities to create voting pools and collectively determine the direction of their organizations, without the need for centralized leadership. This is a fascinating experiment in human psychology and highlights the potential for marrying technology and social layers to create something magical. [Listen from 15:00]
(Listen to Personal Board of Directors 2023 with Melissa Perri and Gibson Biddle)
be radical is a company that helps individuals and organizations discover what matters for their future and how they can go and transform. Pascal was inspired to start this company while working at Singularity University where he helped people see the future differently, particularly when it comes to technology. Pascal found that there was an interesting gap between people seeing what could be and not knowing what to do about it. He wanted to help people build a future they could see.
Action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action, which is why it’s important to pair vision and perspective with action. The be radical team helps people get the earliest seed of what IoT could actually mean for their business by running experiments that help them experience the technologies. One of the most important things is to ask the question: what is the cheapest, easiest, quickest way to test your assumption? This question can help bring insights to people more quickly and efficiently. [Listen from 19:40]
Pascal is looking forward to the changes that AI will bring to the way we think about information retrieval, especially in terms of crafting better questions rather than just seeking answers. He believes that we are at a pivotal moment where the systems that define the web will change dramatically, and the way we think about browsers, searching, and information retrieval will change. Pascal is excited to see how people will make use of these changes and what they will create from them. [Listen from 27:25]