Up on the Tom Peters site there’s a good note on the “Generation Gap.” The idea is that his generation was handed a functioning business world with solid fundamentals, and that they took it created a world of stilts, which the current generation has now been bequeathed. Today those stilts are being knocked down and we’re trying to figure it out what the hell to do now.
The obvious answer is that we need to start rebuilding. I’m more convinced than ever that the problems of the last twenty years will have to be fixed by building companies that are driven by the new technologies that are transforming everything. Though, as TP’s post points out, the business world’s current guiding ethos also need to change.
We need long term thinking. The TP post talks about too many MBA’s in charge, too much greed, and confusing profit with value. To me, these are all different ways of saying, as a business community, we’ve failed the long term. We measured things in fiscal years and quarter-to-quarter and found the long term something that was hard to fathom.
We’re already seeing some of this (apparently) change. Google when they went public stressed acting for the long term instead of sacrificing to attain the short. (I’ve got a longish rant on public companies and whether or not Google lives up to this saved in drafts that I need to finish). Facebook throughout their history has emphasized the long term vision of “transforming communications” (or something like that) over the noise of the next 10 minutes. Clearly this has done extremely well for them. And throughout startup land, smart investors and founders have been stressing building transformative products that create killer value as the only priority and short-term profits as an afterthought. This is often laughed at by pundits as signs of the last dot.com bubble. But there’s a difference between doing something stupid like raising a $100 million dollar to sell hundred pounds bags of dogfood through the mail and looking at an idea that will disrupt a market that people are getting value from today by leveraging technology to make it better, more efficient, or just cheaper.
Millions of people looked at Obama as the guy who was going to lead us out of the doldrums. But, really, we need to look at each other. And my generation specifically needs to figure out how to create the next generation of business that will get the economy growing again. Things are incredibly nasty out there. And, personally, I don’t see things getting better for a while. There are no quick fixes when you dig as deep a whole as we’ve done. So what’s left is for us to look around at the tumult, change, and turmoil around us and ask how can we help? In some cases this might just be volunteering, in others there are business opportunities to help create value, and in the process create jobs and help be a part of the solution.
I know what I’ll be spending part of my weekend doing.