Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
October has been a busy month for me. I have spent it traveling the U.S. giving motivational talks to behavior analysts who might have an innovative, outside the box, business idea but who don’t know how to make it a reality.
The first part of my talk gave an overview of several of B.F. Skinner’s writings that illustrated his vision of a technology of behavior for the world. The second part gave an overview of where we are as a field and, not surprisingly, we have come nowhere close to fulfilling his vision. However, there have been a small but steady stream of behavior analysts through the years focused on tackling those big global issues that Skinner so prominently discussed.
In the final part of my talk, I discussed a new way forward – entrepreneurship. Though we lack and entrepreneurial repertoire as a field, it provides us a way to answer previous calls for Behavioral Systems Analysis in a way few have discussed before. Entrepreneurship encapsulates an inherently creative skillset that involves creating something that doesn’t yet exist. Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), by contrast, assumes the existence of an organization for its work. Entrepreneurship does not.
It can be intimidating to stare this “void” directly in the face and come up with something totally new. However, there are things you can do to minimize risks, to make it not seem as “scary” as it could be, and to empower you to take your first step today towards a new life as a business owner.
As I have a chance to talk with more and more behavior analysts, a few common things come up that I wanted to address below:
Behavior analysts have a lot of innovative ideas, but they don’t know how to make it a reality.
Many people think that starting a business has to be a complicated thing. It doesn’t. Sure, if you are chasing venture capital and trying to “Shark Tank” your idea, it can get complicated. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Finding a way to “bootstrap” your idea with your own money while you still have the security of a steady paycheck is empowering. You can take a few simple steps today, mentioned in a previous article, to leverage your own interests, strengths, and values, into something that could potentially give you financial independence over the long term.
Behavior analysts get excited when they hear about Skinner’s vision.
Unfortunately today, many behavior analysts are losing contact with Skinner’s vision. His vision was to create a “technology of behavior” for the world, and he always had the biggest global issues in mind, such as nuclear war, education, pollution, and many, many others. Time and time again, I have people come up to me thirsty to learn more. Skinner gave us the “mission statement” of our field, and familiarizing yourself with what he had to say allows you to appreciate the bigger picture, and the great potential, of our science for providing solutions to improve our world. His classic, Beyond Freedom & Dignity, is a great place to start.
Behavior analysts need to shift from an “academic” mindset, to a “social” mindset.
If the word “mindset” bothers you, substitute it for “verbal repertoire.” That’s the first thing you have to learn as an entrepreneur. Drop your academic way of talking, and talk like a regular person. Entrepreneurship is an inherently social enterprise. If you can’t talk to people in a way they can understand, you have already lost. Entrepreneurship is also an inherently interdisciplinary enterprise. Lots of people in the world are experts at things that we aren’t, that will help your business. Accountants, attorneys, marketing specialists, graphic designers, computer programmers, and thousands of others can provide value to your business. Go out into the world and meet them!
Every city has countless networking events that you could attend at little to no cost. One that I like is called One Million Cups. Every Wednesday in hundreds of cities across the U.S. two startups give a 15 minute talk about their company, and open the event up to a Q&A with the audience. The remainder of the event is open up to networking, or simply socializing. The ability to socialize (network), make connections, and talk to people in normal language is paramount to success. Do a quick Google search, or jump on MeetUp.com to find networking events in your area.
Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org. bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series. Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar. He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues. Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org