Dependence, Independence, Interdependence and Permission

Most of us are brought up to be dependent – on other’s approval, on “experts”, and to needing permission.

In the industrial era, it made sense, hierarchies were effective means of command and control, and compliance meant the difference between earning a living, or not.

As technology and social structures changed, we moved towards greater independence, often with money at the heart of it. Lifelong employment disappeared, and with it notions of loyalty and duty towards an employer, to be replaced by independence  for those who had marketable skills, or independent means. It gave us a sort of lonely freedom – not being governed, but without the work community that often provides support and meaning.

The most successful are now moving beyond this to interdependence – retaining all the options of independence, but choosing communities and “tribes” of those they choose to share their work and lives with. I work with a lot of fast growing businesses, and this feature – an interdependence with colleagues and clients – is a very visible feature. It gives them purpose, adaptability, flexibility and huge capability and attractiveness.

Many established organisations, and most of government, has not yet understood this. They pay lip service to it without understanding its implications. A dangerous place to be complacent. Those centralised institutions, from Head Office to Westminster, are becoming less and less important to those with the talent to create the future.

Adam Lent has written an excellent blog on the RSA site, which examines what 21st Century organisations might look like. In my view, worth the five minutes it will take to read.

The future is arriving faster than you think, whether you’re ready or not.

It offers immense opportunity, but won’t ask permission.

In the Midlands? – Three things to reflect on this week.

For those of us in the Midlands, here are three things to think about over that CostaBucks as you start the week:

  1. There was a brilliant TEDx Brum event on Saturday. Lots of local, great speakers, and an exceptional one by Emma Mulqueeny. If you have millenials, anywhere in your world, visit her blog on “97ers”.
  2. There is a NextGen 14 conference here in Derby on Tuesday and Wednesday. Amidst all the routine, unexciting bits will be some insights that may just affect the way every business in Derby works.
  3. Bearing in mid what might emerge from this, here’s a trend that is frightening the tech companies, that also has implications for the rest of us.

These are the sort of things we normally pass by when we’re busy. Understandable, but we probably shouldn’t.

Have a great week.

Beyond the SME Hype

There’s a great piece of research just released by NESTA. In essence, it has four messages:

  1. Most startups were not particularly special from an economic point of view.
  2. Many good companies go out of business.
  3. Existing businesses were by far the biggest contributors to economic growth.
  4. The British economy became significantly worse at allocating resources to the best businesses over the period.

This ties in with other data. Including the fact that the best “high growth” businesses are not start ups – they are, on average, 18 years old.

I think it suggests a message; if you’re going to start a business doing what is already done, it’s a high risk. In the end, scale wins. You may have a better offer, a better service, even be better looking – in the end though, the slower, more boring, uglier businesses at scale are likely to get you.

If you’re going to start a business, launch something new, then make it NEW. The attrition rates may still be high – but if that worries, you probably shouldn’t be reading this. Go NEW – you’ll learn more, meet more interesting people, and have more fun. The risk of failure is not to be feared – it’s part of the price of doing NEW stuff, a part of the process, and recognising it early – before it becomes a problem – is a key element of good business model design.

We all have something inside us we want to make real. There has never been a better time to do it.