(The article was first published in Mar-Apr2014 edition of Aurora.)
If you have a laptop and an internet connection in our hyper-connected world, consider yourself in business. Unlike the industrial age, and all its mutations to date, today’s community-driven, sharing-economy thrives on ideas to live by. Ideas that can add big value in small ways to the lives of your fans, friends and enthusiasts.
Or, in a word, your tribe. And it’s not being led by conformists (those cogs of industry who succeed by being risk-averse, told what to do and who to follow) but by non-conformists. Those freewheelers, artists, outcasts and outliers who dream their dreams on the fringes of society.
Trouble is, nobody wants to hire a dreamer. Dreamers don’t have the temperament to clock-in and clock-out. They can’t be subordinated. They get in the way of traditional productivity. And this is something most managers cannot tolerate. But if management were, in fact, willing to overlook this cardinal corporate sin, then they would embrace a new kind of leader who is offering, at the risk of many failures, a new kind of leadership for today’s world.
Godin gives the example of Richard Branson who, he says, didn’t invent any of the work he does. In fact, airlines, music, cola, trains – and everything else the Virgin brand has attached its brand of iconoclasm to – predated his arrival. But Branson’s approach, the risks he takes, puts him ahead in the league of dreamers.
Let’s just call it emotional and cultural bandwidth. That rush of hot blood that gives ordinary businesses extraordinary potential for engagement and connectivity with their audiences. You see, most corporatised people are preconditioned not to rock the status quo. They can’t. They will be fired. You become an MBA by not taking emotional risks, not putting yourself in the line of fire, by following a chain of command, and learning how to work your way up a regulated system. Which is great – if you are still stuck in the 20th century.
In fact, those who graduate with MBAs (that’s Master of Business Administration, not Artistry) even from Ivy-clad schools, rarely become entrepreneurs. If they do, they probably had to drop out. And it’s not because they don’t have the skills or aptitude or lack of funding. It’s because they don’t want to be seen as dreamers.
As the guys who are willing to risk everything for a cause they believe in. Guys who bravely embrace failure.
And yet, “most value today,” reveals Seth Godin, perhaps the greatest marketing thinker of our time, “is not created by people who are told what to do by their boss, but by people who figure out what to do next.”
Because the playing field is more equal and fairer than ever before, everyone (even dreamers) gets a fighting chance to get their voice heard, their content subscribed to, and their product or service downloaded. So long as those who are conversing with you are offered something of enduring, sustainable value.
The people who figure out what to do next are not likely to be found in hierarchical systems, but tinkering away on the frontiers of possibilities.
Godin gives the example of Richard Branson who, he says, didn’t invent any of the work he does. In fact, airlines, music, cola, trains – and everything else the Virgin brand has attached its brand of iconoclasm to – predated his arrival. But Branson’s approach, the risks he takes, puts him ahead in the league of dreamers. Apple did it, too. Remember ‘Here’s to the crazy ones…?’ And so are countless other digipreneurs who are changing business the moment they plug their laptops into the worldwide web and invite you to engage with them in their corner of the sky.
Why is this happening? Because mass marketing, as we knew it, is fragmenting. If the trend is towards micro-personalisation and customised intimacy in the intellectually-powered content age, then mass marketing is outdated. As a result, new media platforms, deployed by the mavericks on the edges, are becoming the hallmarks of the digital age where specific pockets, or tribes, of like-minded communities are seamlessly interconnected to each other with a passionate sense of belonging. Needless to say, when you keep up with what’s happening way out there, you know where the future is headed. Meanwhile, those in the average middle – the cash cow that mass marketing milked for decades – look less appealing in the new balance of power.
Moreover, anybody with a connection and a dream has the tools available today to become somebody; to become their own bosses, their own publishers, in their own time. Best of all, because the playing field is more equal and fairer than ever before, everyone (even dreamers) gets a fighting chance to get their voice heard, their content subscribed to, and their product or service downloaded. So long as those who are conversing with you are offered something of enduring, sustainable value.
So what does a small business need to succeed in today’s world? What it always did. A big idea – that connects.
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE and CD, The D’Hamidi Partnership