Startups are the greatest perpetrators of the fallacy of the Great Man Thesis. This is the idea that Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Sam Bankman-Fried and their ilk possess such superior skill, intelligence and willpower that they have bent the world to their visions and reaped the financial benefits. This is the wrong of the past decade.
The past three months have shown us that in each case, there was no Great Man. What there were were individuals well-positioned to benefit from the underlying changes in society and technology. While their skills (and privilege) put them in the right places or let them capitalize on opportunities better than others, they are mere products of their times and the people around them.
This is why at Faculty of Change you will rarely hear us talk about innovation. We are not creating new things from whole cloth. Rather, we work with clients to reposition their capabilities and teams in the best way to benefit from waves of change.
We don’t need to do a critical reading of Marx and Hegel to see how and where business benefits from being right about larger societal change (Marx for Business book club coming in 2023). Zuckerberg was early (and right) about an increasing desire by individuals to connect with like-minded individuals and ‘other’ those who don’t share their views. He has been wrong about our desires to interact in virtual spaces (with or without legs). Bezos got people’s preference for convenience over human interaction right, but got the idea we will control everything with our voices all wrong. The list goes on and on.
If you are part of our ecosystem, then you are probably part of a team. A group of individuals working to achieve a common cause. You are a leader, not a founder. That’s a good thing. You have an opportunity to position yourselves right to benefit from large-scale change. Be the Nikon, not the Kodak. Be the Domino’s, not the Pizza Hut.
How do you do it? That is the hard part. Three steps:
- Invest time, effort and resources in understanding how the lives of those you serve are changing and evolving.
- Create a strategy that redeploys your capabilities to be ahead of the change.
- Ensure your whole team shares that view of the future and knows how to prioritize decisions that will allow for success in that future.