What do you break when there are no rules to be broken? This has become my koan each time I learn of a new ‘disruption’ in the market.
This season’s game of guessing what may come in the New Year is even more challenging because what defines success today tends not to be delivered in predictable form. It is a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Sometimes an interpretation of the grossly obvious.
The culture we live in is pre-occupied with hacking itself in the name of progress. Globalisation brought on by technology takes kudos for enabling more people to participate in this activity, but curiously it is no longer just about ‘the economy’ or ‘fighting the system’, but action driven by greater mastery of ourselves as human beings. Harnessing consumer behavioural psychology is the secret sauce to business success in our time.
Other things that make predicting the path to success more challenging: just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t discount probability; failed beta ideas find success in second lives and new bodies; and concepts that once would be deemed crazy earn badges of legitimacy. I’m just threading the surface here, but look at Bitcoin or the idea of strangers staying in other people’s homes.
So if pretty much anything goes and success is better delivered in no predictable form, how does one plan ahead? As a fellow searcher, I have no concrete answers, but here are some personal observations.
- The return of the specialist. There was a period were the term ‘one stop shop’ signaled the ability to deliver a broad skill set and expansive thinking. But time has shown that it is very difficult to be good at many things and far more impressive to excel in one particular area. To quote the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus “…don’t, like children, be once while a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Caesar’s officers, These things are not consistent. You must be one man, either your own ruling faculty or externals, and apply yourself either to things within or without you…”
- Neo-punk attitude goes mainstream. I use the term ‘neo-punk’ for lack of a better word to describe a growing sentiment where individualism and causes are key motivators of choice. This is not the punk culture of mohawks or chains or The Ramones, but it continues the spirit of “anti-authoritarianism, a DIY ethic, non-conformity, direct action and not selling out”. It is far reaching, including aesthetics, media and sexuality, and to stand out one will need to adopt a ‘neo-punk’ attitude. The future belongs to rebels.
- Strategic charisma. Creating a large community of ‘followers’ has become a KPI for many businesses. Yes, the volume of a subscriber base does add heft to a company’s value, but before any of us forget, business is buoyed by monetary transactions. 50 million followers and revenue that is not punching above one’s competitors is not a sign of smarts. It’s an illustration of charisma without strategy. ‘Strategic charisma’ is not a calculated exchange, but action driven by the bottom line. Take it from Kris Jenner who has money flowing through the pipes as 204,000 people ‘heart’ an Instagram post where she’s dressed in a onesie.