… and that, is part of the problem, about the start-up revolution … or the revolution of innovation … or the era that deems itself revolutionary … or whatever makes most employed 9-to-5ers never wish to go through the entrepreneurial eye of the needle anymore. Our beloved 9-to-5ers have, however, in medieval times, wished they were business men and women. Because back then, serious business folk occupied special positions in the upper ranks of admiration. But a whole generation of “businessy types” was subjected to a staged mass-murder by bright sparks who call themselves entrepreneurs. Since then, entrepreneurial popularity gradually came to define an era. The shorts and the flip-flops and the flat-base caps then made it into the boardroom; mainly because the boardroom left the 10th floor, went down the elevator, produced the proverbial middle-finger to the pencil-skirted, red-bottom stilletoed receptionist, and headed straight to Coffee Shops. There, the Free WiFi permeates the air. It ushers the board members into the internet that moulds a generation of entrepreneurs without borders. The brainstorming begins. The ideas have sex. The product is birthed. The entrepreneur is edified. But the market still demands the “businessy type.” Because invention, in the grand scheme of things, is not better than cure.
There are three problems about the enterprising world that we find ourselves in. The first problem is not in finding innovating entrepreneurs. It is in creating the business tenacity out of the entrepreneurs who have already stood up to be counted. In a perfect world, where lines are straight and circles are round, some of these entrepreneurs stand taller than the rest and ultimately become business success tales which, when unmonitored, gives birth to the second problem: Business folk that are not innovating passionately anymore. The third and final problem is geared toward solving the first two problems about our modern world. It is an even bigger problem: How do we get the innovating entrepreneur to share the same body with the business lad?
Problem 1: Innovative But Not Businessy
It emerged like a straw house on fire when the world made it easy for people to create new markets – or to disrupt old ones – without revealing the real reason behind that sort of transformation. At its inception, it seemed plausible for any well-meaning bright spark to walk out of their cubicle and head straight to creating their own outfit from scratch and build it into a company of critical mass. At this very moment, the game-changers and the leaders of packs in most industries are the big outfits who are young-at-heart, not because they go through continuous reconstruction or organizational “Botox.” That is the best guess. But the more subtle one is that they “buy” innovation, in the not-so obvious form of salaries and packages and year-end bonuses. In some instances, it is hefty salaries, in exchange for the so-called young-heartedness. The flip side of the spectrum is that the aforementioned bright sparks suddenly catch feelings; because at the deepest parts of their subconscious minds, they believe that they have helped their entity strategically and innovatively. They have drawn up marketing campaigns. They have cannibalised the company’s old product by reinventing a new one that smashes sales records year-on-year. They have saved the company truckloads of money by discerning loopholes in the company’s balance sheet. And rightfully so, they emerged as saviours. And entrepreneurship snatched them and stole them away. And they sailed off to erect their own outfits. They are innovative. But innovation has never solved the problem for growth. Innovation only but stretched the market, and gave the rest of its members something else to think about. But long after entrepreneurs have been innovative, the market will force them to be businessy, in order for their innovations to rule the world of business.
Problem 2: Businessy But Not Innovative
The collars are crisp. The buttons are tied to the top. The tie hangs peacefully and unnerved on the crisp shirt whose buttons are tied to the point that potentially could choke the living life out of discerning the future. The ability to discern is diminishing due in part because of the “deceitfulness of riches” that is perpetuated by its balance sheet. The examples of such incidences are plentiful in the annals of business history. Kodak repented too late. Nokia too. And Blackberry as well. The balance sheet’s problem is that it cannot innovate. It can no longer think through things with freshness. The least it does, as we see day-to-day, is that it funds freshness. It knows the language of the peak of the mountain, but does not remember how it got there. It only survives because the freshness that it funds, the innovative bright park, has not quite learned the language of the peak. One mistake, and disruption will choke it during lunch, because that will be the time when the entrepreneur in the coffee shop finally gets a grasp of things. But as history would presuppose, rarely does the entrepreneur and the business person live in one body.
Problem 3: The War Of The Two Worlds
The further we drift toward the end of the world as we know it, the world the entrepreneurs are trying to create – the more the entrepreneur will need to invoke the business person in them – and fight the good fight of making sure that both entities stay alive and fed in the venture at all times. Facebook was designed by entrepreneurs and built by business people. In our reality, to be an entrepreneur or to be a business lad is not a question of choice. It is a situation imposed. Great business folk start off as entrepreneurs – because their eyes and ears are on the ground. They make certain partnerships and slowly but surely morph into business folk. Entrepreneurs created Kodak. Business folk built it. And the very business task force that built it ultimately offered it up for lunch to the change that was brought in by entrepreneurs without borders.
The entrepreneurs without borders are onto something. But they need all the help they can get. They cannot afford to assassinate business. Please God. No. Not another war.
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Simphiwe Makapela is an Entrepreneur, a Professional Speaker on Innovation and Change, and a Writer. Follow him on @SimphiweMakap.