Before I go into an explanation for this one, just want to tell you 3 relevant stories (OK, 4 stories… one crept in at the last minute) because I think the phrase “What is working now…” will become as common a piece of business jargon over the next 30 years just as prevalent as… “Thinking outside of the box“… or “We need to step outside of our comfort zone“…
OK, I have told this story before… but here, the context is slightly different…
I have a good friend who was starting up her small business back in the early 1990s in the South West of England, having recently moved out of London and the South East.
She decided to follow her intuition, and set up a new business, based on her intuitive hunch about what would work… only to be told by the 10 and more proper, qualified business people she met that what she was doing was wrong, would never work, and she was bound to fail.
But she decided to stay true to her intuitive feelings never the less, and continued to develop her own business in the way she felt was right… no matter what other people might say or think.
Anyway, close on 30 years later, she is the only one who is still in business, while all the others who told her that she was wrong have since gone bankrupt, given up, or fallen by the wayside.
If time is like a wave… then all the people who had been advising her were talking in terms of the Now-Wave that was passing… while her intuitive hunch was attuned to the Future-Now-Wave that was coming in.
This story is drawn from Steve Case’s book The Third Wave… where he tells a story about being in a room with executives from one of the big U.S. T.V. Networks … where he was telling them to invest in the Internet, get their own website set-up, about all the potential and possibilities which lay ahead…
But because this was the very early 1990s, the potential of the Internet had yet to hit home, and he was pitching to old school T.V. executives… and Amazon and Netflex and eBay and the like were still far off in the future… so they just couldn’t see the world he was describing… for them it hadn’t yet come into view, and so they didn’t believe in it.
Their old style thinking, which admittedly had served them well up to their present Now… prevented them from seeing that the world was a changing… and the next Now would be different.
They listened politely… but didn’t see the need to take a chance on a website, after all they had done very well without one up to now… the meeting was brought to an end… and a couple of years later, those same T.V. execs frantically back-tracked, when they couldn’t fail but see what was happening in the real world, and got themselves a website.
I think it was some French thinker (but can’t remember their name, sorry) who said “To have or recognize a new idea you have to first let go of an old one.”
And that really will be a life-mantra for the next 40 years I believe… where the ability to update your core ideas and beliefs to remain relevant will become a real life-skill (read Ian Leslie’s book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It… very soon, the ability to be open-minded and curious will be a quality much desired by big business).
But sometimes, when that old idea has got you to where you are… is the foundation of your current success… noticing that the world has changed direction, and that your old idea is no longer the Big IT can be a hard on the brain and personality.
About 2 years ago, I encountered 2 budding entrepreneurs, who had dropped out of our local University… which was admittedly a big step to take… and they were taking a huge gamble with their lives… but I did admire their courage and spirit, and tried to give them some helpful pointers.
But there was, to my mind, an issue… which unfortunately undermined their attempts at success (although hopefully they will be successful at their second attempt).
You see, they had been granted a place at the University Business School, where they received help, support and advice from some coaches who had themselves been successful in business.
But their idea was screaming Internet Marketing, all their potential Customers could mostly be reached easily online… but their business coaches had largely worked / retired back in the 1990s… at a time when the importance of the Internet was far less solid… and because the coaches had no real experience with Internet Marketing, they were pointing them in a totally different direction for their marketing efforts… which frankly didn’t work… but with which their coaches were mentally comfortable (after all… it had worked for them).
Which is the primary reason why I believe these 2 young entrepreneurs failed… because they were being given advice relating to a business environment which had ended 20 or 30 years ago.
OK, admittedly, the core of the advice was sound… built on solid business principles… but the business environment had changed.
You see… in business the Now is always changing… and in the 21st century, the Now will easily accelerate away from you… unless you take active steps to keep up.
So what do all these stories have in common?
Well, the point is that in our world, things are not just changing… they’re accelerating… the pace of change is ever growing… especially in the fields of business and technology.
So to not just survive, but actively thrive, people are going to have to update their mental preconceptions about what works, or is working, much more quickly then before.
I believe from now on, success in business will be the based on the ability to successfully surf wave after wave of ever changing Now-ness… and the ability to let-go of the old Now and embrace the new.
And some of the key things which need to happen to support that include:
- Listening to other people (no, I mean, really listening… not just lip-service listening)
- Being able to admit that you are wrong, and someone else might have got it right, so you can quickly change direction
- Not only being able to think outside of your box… but also outside of your business tribe
So what was working last year may not be the best approach in a years time.
Scrap that… maybe we’re headed for a world where, in 30 years time, what was working last month just isn’t working the next… and your life is in a state of continual upgrade just to keep up.
Right now, it may be hard to get your head around the sense of that… but that may be because we’re living Now… and not Then.
Finally, there is a story I love… which may or may not be true… but even if it isn’t… still love it.
Jimi Hendrix… back in the 1960s… used to frequent a nightclub in London… which apparently had a really bad guitarist in the band.
And people couldn’t understand why the world’s best guitarist would turn-up, night after night, to listen to the world’s worst.
When someone asked him to explain his behavior, this is what he said:
“Yes, he’s not a very good guitarist… but as he blunders around, I have noticed that occasionally, by total accident, he comes up with chords of sheer genius… He doesn’t realize what has happened, but I do… And when he does, when he plays the gold… I want to be here to hear it.”
So if this story is true… there was a man who could not only think outside the box, but be open to what was working in that moment.
It’s not just about being in the NOW… but being present and aware and open to the new and evolving NOW… and when you are… you may find yourself listening to unexpected chords of sheer genius.
Note: And I love the fact that some of the riffs played by one of the world’s greatest guitarists… could have been originally inspired by one of the world’s worst.
(c) Brian Parsons, August 2016