|Robert Johnson, waiting for the Devil.|
When you are standing at a crossroads in your life, realise that the greatest block that you can put in front of your Self is the idea that there is a right choice.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Economic Ecologies, and Other Random Musings
So here we are, at The Crossroads. One path is towards (what we will generally call) Digital Ecosystems, the other path being (generally) Industrial Chains. Is there a "right choice"? This depends on how much stock one (Self?) puts into strategy. Strategy is tightly bound with world views, and its close cousin, mental models. Strategy is the difference between luck and brains. If one were to dig into the research, we would be surprised to discover that more businesses, be that the business of you, or large scale corporations, rely more on luck than brains. Which is to say, doing things you've always done with some kind of belief that this will work out. Which is to say, fate over strategy.
Strategy begins with having a deep understanding about the environment in which your business pertains to operate within, with a framework for how you're going to create value within that environment, for whom, and some sort of reciprocation from which a profit is derived.
Herein lies the problem. Strategy requires thinking and communication, both of which require collective intelligence, design thinking, and a framework for development.
However, the cult of business worships individualism and strong, decisive leadership, which tends towards hierarchical organisations.
What strategy requires, and what business cult tendencies gravitate towards are not compatible.
If we wanted to boil this down to a couple of simple words, I will nominate Ego Gratification.
If we were to devote the necessary time into evolutionary psychology, we would be somewhat amused, and mildly horrified, to learn the difference between us, and say apes, is very little.
Which, roughly translated, is that the vast majority of chiefs running businesses as the agency for others would prefer to operate on the "gut instincts" of their, um, human nature--which often gets spectacularly rewarded!! (even as the length of tenure continues to shorten)--than to engage in the humility of real strategic thinking. The evidence is overwhelming in that this is a recipe for failure, or at best, treading water. The evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of businesses are treading water, and/or are sinking.
To wit, change is diabolically hard. Emphasis diabolical.
Wait, What About Economic Ecologies??
We'll get to this. For now, we need to keep two things in mind. Ecologies are complex. Economics (the big E Economics) has for the better part of two centuries, hitched its wagon to mechanical physics.
Hopefully you understand the two notions of complexity and mechanics are incompatible.
Here's the thing (as a colleague habitually prefaced his opinions with), if we had to say one grand (positive) thing about our twentieth century , it is that we mastered the complicated. Mechanics are complicated. Mechanical systems are complicated. Given our human ingenuity, give us some (okay, lots) of computing power, we can solve the complicated. This ability has put men on the moon (it's more complex as to why no women made it to the moon, but I digress) and given us spectacular gains in standards of living. (never mind that pesky gap in wealth distribution).
The best and the brightest (okay, white males of privileged backgrounds) rose to the top of the food chains by their mastery, their expertise of the complicated.
That we can put men on the moon, robotics on Mars, but yet get bitch-slapped by the common cold is a warning. I'll let you figure that out.
The mastery of the complicated is seeing ever decreasing returns and margins. Put another way, Complicated Mastery is now a commodity. Put yet another way, you've been commoditised. Sorry.
This trend serves as the introduction for a term I'm sure you've heard of, that is going to kill us (well, you. hopefully not me)--The Innovator's Dilemma.
The Innovator's Dilemma is when you've been commoditised (or possibly disrupted if we really want to go all Clayton Christensen on your ass), but your ego defences (your ego has prevented you from even possibly understanding ego defences) is preventing you from understanding what you do not know about what you do not know.
You might have to read that last line several times.
Your self worth (and marketable value) is tied to what you Do Know, and probably even blinded you to your falling market value (macro=organisation, micro=you). Your only buffer at this point is so many businesses are caught in the Innovator's Dilemma trap, they just keep recycling the same basic formula hoping for better results (and passing this off as strategy, only because the Board itself doesn't know any different). Which means they can keep recycling you.
I'll leave it for you to decide if you're on one of those rat wheel things so often lampooned in business cartoons, or if you are stuck in a Dilbert comic strip. I guess if you're still making your mortgage and and Mercedes payments, and your kids are in the right schools, its a bit of a tie at the moment. Hopefully you can retire soon.
It's Complex. Actually.
Here's the good news!!! There's a boatload of gold for solving (sic) in the world of complex!! And we're talking monopolies here!! We're actually talking so much f**king gold, your boat will sink under the weight!! I'll order you a martini. Double, shaken (vodka, not gin).
Here's the bad news. You're clueless in this world. It gets worse. You're worse than clueless, you're damaging. Right. I'll get you another martini.
Oh, and by the way, that fork in the crossroads? That iconic re-enactment of Robert Johnson standing there, waiting for the Devil? That somewhat palpable salve of possible choice? As in maybe there isn't a right or wrong choice? Digital or Industrial?
I hate (I lie, I love) to popgun the pseudo-guru-babble, but that train has left the station.
The world in which your value resides is going to be eaten by platform based ecosystems. And I'll bet dollars to donuts you barely have the foggiest notion of what that means.
I'll cut to the chase. If you don't know how you are going to create and bring value to the ecosystem where your business is tenuously residing, you're either dead or dying.
No business is immune. None. Don't kid yourself.
That gold? That can only be had through platform based ecosystem orchestration. If you don't understand what that means, at best you're an instrument in somebody else's orchestra (platform), which means you get to survive well enough to tread water.
At worse? You're the wildebeest about to cross the crocodile infested waters desperately hoping to get to that economic ecology on the other side of the river. Crossing the chasm is an understatement.
Platform based ecosystems are the next generation of markets that are 100% customer centric. That is, increasingly customised offerings supplied through a market meshed of third party vendors (read: instruments).
The gold, as it were, lies in the Mastering of Ecosystem Orchestration, which is to say, mastering complexity and the new world of (digital) strategy.
It bears repeating, your ego is a detriment here. Your swash-buckling individualism and gut instincts are damaging. Like cancer damaging. Sorry. I'd offer you another martini but you would probably puke it back up onto my shiny white Puma runners.
Economic Ecologies: The Next Generation.
The economics of now are based on the science of biology and biological systems (complexity), NOT the science of mechanics and mechanical systems (complicated).
We understand our economic environments as highly complex, interdependent ecosystems. We will manage, and Not Control these systems through much more advanced management systems that are based on the science of collective intelligence, augmented with artificial intelligence, using design thinking, and the resultant advanced models of development (innovation, in the old industrial language).
Ecosystem orchestration is a vastly different set of skills and proficiencies than that of the commanding controls of an industrial economic business model.
The future that we are irreversibly in is a competition between ecosystems of which individual business species are a part of. It is vital to your future that you understand at a very deep level how your business is going to contribute to the health of your ecosystem. You know, your strategy.
Even if you are not the orchestrator, there's decent margins to be had by being an invaluable collaborator in the ecosystem.
To do that, you have to accept the two premises fore-shadowed in quotes that opened this little post. The option of that fork in the road is an illusion, and that doing the same thing over and over again expecting (better) different results is insanity, and eventually fatal.
Can you change? You tell me. But do know this. Those (including me) who are seeking a mastery of ecosystem orchestration will ruthlessly weed you out if you do not. We can not afford cancerous behaviours in our systems.
If you chose change, start with your ego. It may have gotten you to here, but it will not get you to there.