Orignally shared in the Rainforest Alberta Pulse in May 2018, the following post discusses the value of Paying it Forward when building innovation ecosystems.
Why is Paying It Forward so important to Innovation in Alberta?
One of the fundamental rules of the Rainforest is the concept of "paying it forward", that is to do something for another without expecting to be paid back directly. This attitude of giving before receiving is at the heart of a strong and vibrant community of any type, and core to the Rainforest in general.
Paying it forward begins with authenticity. To do something for the benefit of another, while truly not expecting to receive anything in return, one must be authentic and honest about their intentions. Individuals who Pay It forward truly understand that value given is value added. At an ecosystem level, in a world of competition and amid the hustle and bustle of surviving day-to-day, finding time to Pay It Forward may be difficult, counter-intuitive even, but to be a leader, in any context, means adding value.
The idea of Paying It Forward can manifest in the simplest of ways, from holding a door open for another person to buying coffee to the person in line behind you. These simple acts of kindness are valuable, just as is there value in letting a new entrepreneur bounce an idea off you, to learn from your experience. John Maxwell said it best,” People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Maybe the words of Winston Churchill have more weight: "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
It is this spirit of Paying It Forward that makes Silicon Valley, and other Rainforest such hubs for innovation. Alberta is much like Silicon Valley in this way. People here are open, friendly, and neighborly. Indeed, it is often said that it is possible to arrange a meeting with nearly anyone in Alberta if you know who you want to talk to. It is this level of access that has made silicon valley, and other Rainforests, so successful. This willingness to help out and uplift others is what makes communities such as those in Silicon Valley, or Alberta, so strong, resilient, and capable of greatness.
How can you Pay It Forward? As a successful entrepreneur, you can make yourself available to mentor or coach someone starting their entrepreneurial journey. Participate in one of the many mentorship programs in Alberta such as VMS, Raj Manek, or Futurepreneur. Come out to an event and make yourself available to answer questions. Reach out to exciting new startups, or scaling ventures and join their advisory panel. Share your experience as an entrepreneur with government, at all levels, so that they can design and fund programs that meet your needs. Volunteer with one of the hundreds of charities, non-profits, or grassroots initiatives across the province. Make an introduction. Invest.
In a Rainforest, it pays to be open-minded to new people, to be helpful, and to treat each person as though they might have the next valuable opportunity.