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After The Fall- New Biz is Small, Nimble and Interconnected

Wired came out with an short, but potent piece concerning “The New Economy” this summer which continues to represent one of the most straight forward assessments of the post-millennial landscape.

While watching institutions all over the world fall to pieces over the past two years, many of us have sat saying “I told you so.”  Not that we’re pessimistic, just that the tremendous failure of these behemoths makes a lot of sense, and not just in hindsight.

The New Economy: Small, Nimble, and Interconnected

The New Economy: Small, Nimble, and Interconnected

We built wonderfully unstable yet inflexible mountains and played stupid when they came crumbling down. As Wired’s Chris Anderson puts it, “The crisis is not just the trough of a cycle but the end of an era.  We will come out not just wiser, but different.”

The old containers will no longer hold new wine.

Anderson quotes venture capitalist Paul Graham arguing, “It turns out the rule ‘large and disciplined organizations win’ needs to have a qualification appended: ‘at games that change slowly.’ No one knew until change reached a sufficient speed.”  I’d argue that many of us knew exactly this, or at least maintained this assertion as an operating principle in our nature as small business owners and associates.

Routinely, in researching the Top Small Workplaces of this nation, I am told that the primary strength within the TSW ranks lies in being responsive, reliable and innovative.  You can’t throw money at these virtues and expect them to develop.  They are part and parcel of being lightweight and in tune with your clientele.

It’s widely understood that the large, the old, and the burdened can’t maneuver or turn on a dime. Add to this a significant truth highlighted by designer and author Dev Patnaik in his recent book Wired to Care.  Dev, CEO of innovation powerhouse Jump Associates (Top Small Workplace 2008) has looked at a number of organizations which, unlike their competition, have succeeded in remaining effective, in touch with their market, and willing to step it up and spark change in the name of development. .  The secret, he says, lies in fostering an innate sense of empathy in your organization, and being willing to stir from your fortress of an antiquated business models and stay more directly in touch with your customer and fellow co-worker.  “When that happens, the effects of empathy can be profound. Companies prosper. Communities thrive. And we all have a better day at work.”

So not only did many of the world’s massive enterprises demand huge amounts of soon-to-be-defunct credit to operate, they insulated themselves from their clients and the “average Joe,” refusing to change before things came crashing down on them. Wired invokes the teachings of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen to further unravel what has gone so very wrong for heaps of outfits like the big names in Detroit.

There was no room allowed by these dinosaurs for what Christensen terms “disruptive innovation,” in which new concepts alter the trajectory of an industry. “Successful companies in mature industries rarely embrace disruptive innovation because, by definition, it threatens their business models,” explains Wired’s Anderson.  They told the consumer what to buy for generations and were caught with their pants down when conditions- environmental, economic and social- changed.

Guess what folks- things are changing faster every day.

And for those of us navigating the reality of “involuntary entrepreneurship” in these turbulent times, take comfort in this fact.

We are observing the resurgence of the progressive small business.  There is authentic security in the agile and perceptive.  The savvy entrepreneur may be certainly be the most in touch with an emerging or neglected market, and the most capable of meeting that market’s changing needs.

The old titan’s are falling apart, and the ball’s in your court.

Posted in Sustainability, Sustainable Business.

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