Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 26, 2020
The blind leading the blind can sometimes bring unexpected insights

Steve and I had just finished enjoying our almost regular lunch. You might say our mid-day meals together have become customary, though not a formally recurring event, ever since we began collaborating, volunteering some of our time and expertise to help prepare local technology start-up companies raise investment capital through VentureCapital.org.  And, as is usual, I was driving. That’s by mutual consent; because Steve is blind.

“Do you want to see something?” Steve said to me as we got in the car and started driving toward his house.

“Sure” I responded, wondering how in the world he was going to show me anything as we drove!

While his question was a little curious, I wasn’t completely surprised, because I’ve heard him ask two questions, with regularity, to company founders each time we begin our coaching sessions with them. His first question is, “How’s your vision acuity?”  His second is, “Are you ready to venture with vision?” Then I can practically see a sparkle in his eyes right through his almost-always-worn sun glasses when he follows-up with, “Yes, I’m totally blind. And while lacking eyesight, I abound with entrepreneurial insight!”

Steven Maranville speaks with confidence, because he is a world-renown professor of entrepreneurship, specializing in strategic adaption and organizational transformation, advising potential “Unicorn” entrepreneurs on how to gain and sustain a competitive advantage by scaling a venture that learns.  

So I was sure I was about to learn something important, with my hands gripping the steering wheel as we began to leave downtown. I looked to my right, ever so slightly, so I wouldn’t take my eyes off the road in front of us.

“Is that a smirk on his face?” I asked myself as we began the climb up Capitol Hill on Salt Lake City’s Main Street.

As we turned right at the top of Main Street to make our way onto East Capitol Boulevard, I heard Steve’s voice say, through those smirking lips, “Ventures must adapt within an often-hostile competitive environment, but to adapt, a venture must be able to learn. Those ventures that learn the fastest and the most are those that gain and sustain competitive advantage.”

“The lesson is coming soon” I thought, as we continued up the road. And it was.

“Take the next left” Steve said, so casually that his subtlety punctuated the teaching moment. 

“What? How in the world did you do that?” I laughed.

“There’s a curve in the road. Most people miss it.”  He retorted gleefully as we glided into his driveway.

I got out, opened his door and allowed him to grasp my arm so we could walk to the entrance of his lair together. We embraced at his home’s front door as we said our farewell. 

Steve and I had just finished enjoying our almost regular lunch. You might say our mid-day meals together have become customary, though not a formally recurring event, ever since we began collaborating. As you can see, it’s also customary for Steve to teach me a thing or two while on our excursions. As is usual, Steve was my teacher. That’s by mutual consent; because I’m often blind to indicators of importance.

“It’s the blind leading the blind” I whispered to myself, with a smile, feeling gratitude for an extraordinary friend who’s always showing me how to overcome my own blindness by paying attention to indicators often unobserved.

Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.

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