25 Nov Beware of boring.
It’s not a good time to be boring. Boring is no longer synonymous with safety. Boring just means you’re staid and allergic to change.
That’s the problem with big businesses, they’re dull, slow and conservative by design and they can’t get to the future fast enough. They’re full of people who are focused on managing upwards and not making mistakes. People who talk about entrepreneurialism, creativity, innovation and breakthroughs, but have never run a risk in their lives.
You just can’t be an entrepreneur with other peoples’ money. They won’t let you. Big companies love certainty, they’re engineered for it from the top all the way down to the bottom line. Institutional investors will even tell giant corporations that they like them precisely because they’re boring. But the only real certainty is change.
Contrast that with the entrepreneurial mindset. Entrepreneurs are rarely dull because they’re driven to solve a problem, to do something better than it’s being done before and to make their mark on the world. They’re passionate and resilient and unreasonable. As Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn said, “in order to jump off a cliff, you kind of have to believe you can assemble a plane on the way down.”
We’re not talking shades of grey here people, it’s black and white. Entrepreneurs actually enjoy risk. It’s like adrenalin, the hormone that induces the ‘fight or flight’ response. In small entrepreneurial companies it’s exciting and makes them want to fight. By contrast, in big companies it induces flight, a rapid retreat to safety.
In the end it explains why big companies acquire small ones – to give themselves a small, measured dose of risk and bring in a couple of those crazy entrepreneurs into the bargain. If you can’t build an interesting company buy someone else’s and hope it rubs off on you.
So who is better suited to these crazy times, the stalwart or the upstart? Who is more likely to succeed in the new era of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity)? You can bet on small.
No business can afford to be boring now, not even the big boring ones.
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