If you’re prepared to admit it, life as an entrepreneur or manager in the digital and creative industries in 2013 can be baffling and overwhelming. The rate of change is extraordinary. Businesses start up and disappear. A new trend – social or technological – might seem to be the biggest thing since Facebook. Then another new wave appears that sweeps that right away.
It’s a bit like a surfing beach. We think we can see patterns – the waves come in sevens? But then the big wave we’re waiting for just fades and dissipates. All is quiet. And then it’s not. A much bigger wave has knocked us off our feet.
Change does seem like that – like a complex system in nature. Think waves, weather, forests and ecosystems. The perfect symmetry of leaves, then trees smashed and wrecked by a tsunami. In complex, adaptive systems, it’s pretty much impossible to predict with any certainty what will happen next.
So what can we do? Well, what many people in business want to do is to be able to make good decisions, quickly and effectively. To invest their time, and their money, cannily.
And how can you best build the capacity to do that?
My suggestion is to do business more consciously.
That may sound wacky. But really it isn’t.
What’s so good about consciousness?
Increased consciousness allows you to acknowledge reality without being subsumed by it. Increased consciousness gives you a better chance of assimilating and integrating all the different things that are coming at you.
In the modern world, science and technology alone won’t cut it. But nor will ‘soft’ skills – an appreciation of the arts, or psychology. Successful entrepreneurs are able to fuse domains, and integrate approaches from a range of disciplines.
Success in business means working on the soft stuff – culture, people – and on the hard stuff – profitability, revenues, business models.
This means bringing together the emotional, the intuitive and the rational. How you ‘feel’ about things can be a great guide. But you’ll also need the intellectual wherewithal to dive in and analyse the detail.
It’s not just thinking
Thinking alone won’t get you far. Nor will contemplating your navel.
It’s vital you dive in and get experimental. One good way to really figure things out in a complex system is by being a part of it.
We need to think, and do. To reflect as we act. To do things differently.
Doing business consciously means behaving in certain ways. Experimenting yes, failing fast yes.
It also means behaving respectfully towards others. Business may change, but it’s also as old as the hills. And it’s always been based on relationships.
We work well with people we like. Good deals that don’t unpick are based on trust. Culture – how we work with others in collaborative teams – really does eat strategy for lunch.
In an increasingly connected world, we need to include everyone’s interests. We need to be able to empathise with others, and respect and value differences.
If we don’t, we’ll be found out quickly. And, anyway, it’s the right thing to do. It’s one small way we make the world a better place.
The real source of innovation
Above all, consciousness leads to real innovation.
Umair Haque nailed it when he called most innovation unnovation. Adding a third blade to a razor doesn’t really change anything. You still just have a razor.
And the world doesn’t need more razors. It needs something radically different – new ways to achieve things. It needs what Google did, what Facebook did, what the new generation of digital and creative businesses are doing – rethinking everything. From airbnb to Odesk to Lawdingo.
Doing business consciously means coming at problems in different ways. Growing able to reflect on your own framing, on how you see the world. Thinking vertically when everyone else is looking at the world horizontally.
It’s not a panacea
Conscious business – or doing business more consciously – is not a panacea. And it’s not for everyone.
It can be hard work. And it’s a process – not an end-state. In one way we never arrive – which some may find discouraging.
But, for the digital entrepreneur who wants to be successful in a complex, fast changing world, this, for me, is the very best way. To gain material success, while also having a richer experience along the way.
If you’d like to learn more why not investigate a Conscious Business community of practice here in the UK.