Angles and those that can see them

Security professionals — at least the good ones — see the world differently. They can’t walk into a store without noticing how they might shoplift. They can’t use a computer without wondering about the security vulnerabilities. They can’t vote without trying to figure out how to vote twice. They just can’t help it.

Bruce Schneier in Wired

This is a love letter to Irish entrepreneurs like Pat Phelan, Johnny Beirne and Denis O’Brien (but not in the gay for them kind of way) and to people like Richard Branson. While I know Pat and Johnny well enough and don’t know Denis at all and certainly not like Sarah does I think the way they see the world as well as Mr. Branson is different to most people. O’Brien has shown again and again annnnnd again that he has an eye for opportunities and the vision to make them massive successes. Look at the Digicell empire he’s built when so many thought he could never tame the Caribbean and South American markets. He owns radio stations, taxi firms, football managers and job websites here in Ireland. Branson, well, Branson is into everything and doing very nicely thank you very much.

Orange Phone
Photo owned by hyku (cc)

Then there’s Mr. Phelan, now whether it’s the informal engaging attitude from him or maybe I’ve not met enough Irish business people but Pat is different. You talk to Pat about anything and he can see patterns and shapes in businesses so that he’ll find ways of making money from something that you would never see and I’ve not encountered much of that with Irish business people. From Chef to O2 voodoo doll material to big boss of MaxRoam and someone well regarded in Telecoms 2.0 circles.

And Johnny too, worked his ass off to build and kept going and pushing with that and along the way coming up with other ideas for other businesses and services and he’s far from finished. Pat and Johnny and the Collisons too! are of the Schneier breed, of the O’Brien breed, of the Branson breed, people that sees angles in things and they make them visible to the rest of us. They’ll never stop being like that, Pat’s busy flying all around the world but he’s already working on other pet projects and I’m sure he’ll do the same for the rest of his life. Johnny is the same with Grapevine and Patrick created an offline version of Wikipedia for the iPhone.

TV Testing Room
Photo owned by The Consumerist (cc)

In Schneier’s article he goes on to talk about a University that’s teaching people to think like a security consultant. It’s not a course on security but the security mindset. Do we have anything close to that in Ireland for business? Not exactly “Think Differently” since Apple fuzzied that one up but some kind of creative business planning classes. Is this why those business book shelves are so chock full of autobiographies as it shows you how others thought? Can this be thought or is it a natural gift that can just be coaxed out of someone and polished?

4 Responses to “Angles and those that can see them”

  1. Keith says:

    Bruce Schneier is a God!

    Seriously though, you can see this in all walks of life. There are politicians who are brilliant at putting huge ideas out there and making them happen (e.g. Ruairi Quinn on Dublin Docklands Development Authority and the 20% social/affordable housing requirement; Micheál Martin on the smoking ban; Pat Rabbitte on the drug strategy)

  2. roosta says:

    I thought this was going to be about Angels and improving your life and cleaning your aura….

  3. Eamon says:

    Interesting stuff Damien. Its a good question whether business acumen can be taught or not. Many entrepreneurs are drop-outs, though they still arguably need enough support and education to get them to that point. Culture seems important, no nation has yet replicated what the American one is so good at.

    All the people you mention are involved with tech. Someone else amazing is Sean Quinn who does not own a mobile phone, started selling gravel and made fortunes in unsexy industries like radiators.

  4. Johnny says:

    Thanks for the mention. @Eamon – Don’t think I’m a drop out so not part of the ‘many’ you speak of but I take your point. Growing up, I drew as much inspiration from inverse role models as role models. I used to say to myself “I don’t want to be like that’. I could go on about my father who was a coal miner etc. but I won’t. Suffice to say, I didn’t want to be a coal miner.

    People like Sean Quinn are not drop outs – they just chose a different path. What I do now is far removed from my academic background and I would have started sooner if our education system was more accommodating.