TOP 50 STL Economic Development Idea of the Week: Pathfinder

I was very fortunate to be able to earn my MBA from Washington University. It is an exceptional school and I feel honored to be an alum. In my last semester at WashU, I had the opportunity to take The Hatchery course with Cliff Holekamp. The Hatchery is the entrepreneurial course that allows you to design and trial a business. My business was called Pathfinder.

I feel like I never got decent advice on where to go to college or how to choose a career. In fact, I think pretty much all schools, counselors and parents are awful at advising our kids towards well suited paths, whether educational or career-oriented which was essentially my motivation behind creating Pathfinder, to solve that problem.

I was partially inspired by a segment on the Dave Glover Show talking about this exact thing. Dave and his gang wondered why there aren’t more internship opportunities or even apprenticeships. I actually reached out to Dave and his guys and he was gracious enough to have lunch with me to brainstorm a little. So, my first iteration of Pathfinder was a summer program that guided school-aged kids through the major industries available with hands-on experiences in most disciplines. The idea was that exposure to a vast array of different jobs might spark something new in a young person and help better define their path. That version was scrapped early and it evolved into an after school program that focused more on tests that gauged natural abilities and tendencies so that kids could better eliminate choices that did not apply to them and avoid bad investments in time, money or both. The concept took on several variations over the course of the semester and, unfortunately, I made some terrible assumptions of revenue that the advisors/judges didn’t think were very realistic (and they probably weren’t), but this idea is always simmering.

The truth is that we have not solved the problem where too many students finish school with no idea of their next step. Students and parents spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on educational institutions without going through a proper exercise of determining ROI. There just is not enough attention placed on helping kids and young adults find their ideal path, in my opinion.

I read a book years ago by an author named Po Bronson. He said that he thought the next great wave of productivity will come by matching people better to the jobs they are internally motivated and best suited to do. Essentially he made the argument that we can take an existing business or institution and reallocate responsibilities based on what people are naturally good at and want to work harder on all with the same group of people and the efficiencies would skyrocket. I know several people in the organizational design and/or HR fields and I think they believe this is an area that is seriously lacking.

The good news is that my new co-working space is going to put an emphasis on finding people’s unique abilities and focusing their efforts in that discipline the most. We plan on organizing together a comprehensive resource network so that each member can focus on what they do best and delegate the rest. When all the people in an organization are only working on the activities they like and are internally motivated to do so, I’m hoping we ignite a wave of extreme productivity. I’m also talking to several districts in the area about eventually offering internships or, even better, apprenticeships for young people. I think there has to be a better way to help everyone determine their ideal path and I’m internally motivated to solve the problem, so I guess I’m still working on Pathfinder.

Thanks for reading.

Brian Lunt

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