Spirit of Schumpeter

Joseph Schumpeter was the Austrian Economist who made the term “creative destruction” famous. He was a thinker ahead of his time around business and entrepreneurship.

I wonder what he would make of today? Would he see the changes on the High St, and the increasing weakness of the big companies of the last century as they turn into zombies as a bad thing, or a good thing.

I suspect the latter. The moment we organise any business, we build stickiness and resistance to change into it. The only question is how long before it falls far enough behind the rate of change in its markets to become irrelevant.

We shouldn’t (though often do) have a problem with that. However, Nicholas Taleb suggests that the three biggest addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and a regular monthly salary. The first two are a choice, but the latter for most a necessity.

That doesn’t mean we can’t control it.

By developing a mindset of doing the best we can for an employer, but not being dependent. As Robert de Niro says in the film “Heat”; “don’t get involved in anything you can’t walk away from in 30 seconds”

If we’re employees, I think that’s a healthy mindset- it keeps us, and our employers, on our toes.

The trick of course is to be able to walk away. To develop the skills, contacts, values and awareness that makes our relationship with an employer one of equals. That means training, reading, discussing and above all thinking.

For destruction to be creative, it has to create way for something.

That something is an individual and team responsibility, because the destruction will arrive anyway.

And it’s a good thing.

Scary maybe, but good.

Waiting in Line

If you’re waiting for a bus, waiting in line is fine (and if you’re British, compulsory)

On the other hand, waiting for permission to air an idea, to make an observation, to exercise your genius is not.

We now have the largest and most educated population in human history.

Technology has ensured that the growth in ideas, connections, possibilities has been exponential. And yet, most of them are unheard, submerged beneath a tradition of waiting in line for the boss to say OK.

There is an old adage; that the logs at to top of the logpile need the ones at the bottom to be very, very stable. Their position at the top requires it.

If you wait in line, you’ll wait a very long wait, but you’re unlikely to be noticed, with all the risk that bothering the logs at the top incurs.

If, on the other hand you want to make the difference only you and a very few others can make, waiting in line is a waste.

Those important to to you will never know.

But you will.

Centres of Gravity

We all have some “centres of gravity” around which we orbit.

Family, Business, Idea, Cause. No matter where we go, they exert their pull and will always bring us back.

It used to be that the organisation we worked for was a major centre of gravity. It helped define us, provided a career and a social network, and gave us security. It was a major pull, and other centres of gravity were secondary. Other planets orbiting our organisational sun.

That’s changing. In a world where everything is more connected than ever, and people are more mobile than ever, the pull of the organisation is weakening.

In its stead, is the idea. People are increasingly attracted by the ideas that affirm them, and they will gravitate to those who best express those ideas. As individuals, they get their security from their craft and their network, not the HR department of an organisation that thinks of them as resources.

The power of the organisation as a structure is fading, but the power of what it stands for, and can be seen to stand for beyond money, is rising.

Authority derived from position is fading, whilst authority generated by what people stand for and enable is increasing.

The power of scale is decreasing, whilst the power of connection and context is increasing.

It is redefining what it means to be a leader.

Whether as individual or organisation, our leadership authority is only as powerful as what we demonstrated yesterday.