Many impact entrepreneurs inadvertently structure their projects in ways that undermine their ideal outcomes and often lead to dead ends. Magenta Studios have helped thousands of leaders overcome this challenge while doing transformative work in areas such as sustainability, climate change and peace.

Ahead of the WorldMaker public talk (9 November) and training (10 November) at Impact Hub Amsterdam, our new member Sabine Harnau asked Jeff Barnum of Magenta about the most common mistake entrepreneurs make and what to do instead.


“Our idea will work right away!”

“Developing your ideas for solutions that change dysfunctional systems is really important and it’s not easy work. But the next step is even harder: bringing those solutions to life.

You’re going to try and implement your idea and expect it to work — and why not? You did a lot of planning and preparing for its execution. But in practice, real solutions often require breakthroughs that arrive only at the end of a long struggle that may include multiple failures. The world is going to push back against your idea, simply because there is a gap between your best concept and the actual complexity of reality. Navigating the gap brings uncertainty, which, in turn, brings frustration and anxiety. And this is where so many good projects fall down and break: we typically don’t know how to surf that ambiguity and that uncertainty.

The truth is that your good ideas are going to take time to bring to life. There’s a film of Picasso destroying his own painting again and again, to the point where the original painting disappears and a new one arises. This is a great lesson about all creative work: an artist tries one thing and if it doesn’t work, one tries again. And again, and again. Finally, the artist will let the idea itself change according to what’s actually emerging in reality.

By contrast, our change projects and supporters are often invested in a linear approach: we have an idea, we’re going to implement it and that it all be alright the first time around. And granted, maybe 10% of time you’ll get it right on your first go. But for your other attempts, you’ll need to deliberately create an environment for continuous “failure” or, in other words, for learning and capacity building.

Ultimately, there’s a transformation not just of the thing you’re working on, but also of yourself and the other people involved. Creative work changes our beliefs about what’s necessary and important. It forces us to change priorities, to discover outcomes that are even better than our initial ideas. We change our understanding of what’s possible. And as a result of these changes, what emerges from the project meets its impact needs in unexpected ways. That’s the gift of Creative Competency, which we will explore in the workshop: the understanding of how creativity works and how we can harness this know-how in impact entrepreneurship.”

Join the WorldMaker training on 9 & 10 Nov to supercharge your impact work

Whether you are a change-making entrepreneur working with massive societal issues or an artist who wants to make a difference. you’ll benefit from this workshop. Sign up now if you

  • are trying to do big and difficult things
  • have seen projects break down when relationships have broken down and you’ve wondered why
  • have a hunch that people’s thoughts, worldviews and behaviours matter to what you do