“The world is too big and too intricate to conform to our ideas of what it should be like.
Just because we invent myths and theories to explain away the chaos we’re still going to live in a world that’s older and more complicated than we’ll ever understand.”
“The World is a very complex system.
It is easy to have too simple a view of it, and it is easy to do harm and to make things worse under the impulse to do good and make things better.”
Well. Today, while reading some trite business fortune cookie wisdom pulled from some gazzillion selling business book, I thought of the day I said “I worry we are killing the next generation of business thinkers with simplistic tripe” to a famous internationally renowned business book author. I did it at while on a panel at some convention. I said it <after holding my thoughts for too long> as I listened to simplistic soundbite advice being shared under the guise of “sage wisdom to enhance everyone’s success.”
I followed my statement with …
“Business is messy. Business is complex. It seems to me that those of us who have navigated the messiness have a responsibility to not undersell the messiness & complexity nor oversell simplicity.” <Me>
Needless to say … it wasn’t one of my more popular moments.
Needless to say … it was one of my better professional moments.
Ok. Business is made up of a mixture of skills, personalities and attitudes. Success is most often dictated by alignment of skills, personalities and attitudes, or, some special mix of all. It is that mix, or blend, of all those things which is well, frankly, an absolute bitch to make happen.
That said. Let me point out three reasons why business is such a difficult complex unwieldy thing and trite soundbite wisdom rarely helps:
- Building a successful business is rarely about some wide open “white space” awaiting your arrival.
- People … you almost always have to incorporate people into your evil plan for success <and those who most desperately desire to help most often have their own evil plans for success>
- Dealing with what you have is significantly different than creating what you want <and how the initial recipe is different than the ongoing recipe>
Let me explain each.
Business success, generally speaking, comes down to one of two things (a) am I going to build a market for my idea, or (b) am I going to steal some of the existing market for my idea. Needless to say neither of those sits in some dormant white space awaiting your presence.
You either create white space by elbowing some asshats out of your way or simply walk through the front door of the homes of others and steal all their shit <that was a metaphor … you do not really do that>. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and be different or offer some unique aspects <if you can> but more often than not it is all about being sure you are distinct, be relentlessly persistent in communicating your distinctness … and offer something that delivers value after it is purchased.
Uhm. No trite soundbites there and I have pretty much told you everything you need to know.
- People who want to help <but you shouldn’t let them>:
Help is always available. And self proclaimed ‘disruptive/innovative’ help almost even more so. Pick a topic and go online. I can almost guarantee you will get over a million results <you actually get 31.8 million in .59 seconds> of people discussing “disruptive” ideas to facilitate progress. Many of those people are for hire. The majority are smart, articulate and have boundless energy, uhm, for their version of progress.
Finding people who assist in forwarding the progress of your idea is, frankly, not easy <although it seems like it should be>. Even more difficult is incorporating change agents or what we far too often call disrupters. It is challenging … tempting for sure … but challenging.
Soundbite experts will throw out a gazillion people management thoughts on ‘center everyone on the purpose’ and a shitload of ‘horizon direction focus’ thinking … but I gotta tell ya. I can put the biggest fucking beautiful target up on the wall to aim for but if the people I got cannot, and will not, shoot arrows at it — the target is a beautiful piece of art on the wall and nothin’ else.
- Deals and creation:
Soundbite advisors spend a shitload of their energy on ‘bringing your idea to life.’ Not a whole shitload of them invest a lot of energy discussing “what do I do once it is actually breathing.” In other words … what the hell do I do with this Frankenstein?
Huh? What experts neglect to tell you is that all that fine planning and smart implementation rarely ends up creating exactly what you intended creating in the beginning. You will naturally adapt to some things and course correct the best you can as you navigate survival.
At its most basic creating is about making some deals, and dealing with, reality as it gets thrown in your face and at your feet <this means you can trip over a shitload of things>. Some people call this “adapting”, I do not, I call it deal making with the world. Maybe think of creating business like striking a nuclear arms-control agreement. Simplistically the deal is the means, not the end itself, and success simply means everyone keeps their nukes they just don’t use them. But the real point is that business is rarely developed with “dealing” central to success. It is more often the idea <which motivates the energy and company/business>. Deals are simply the way you protect the business idea. What soundbite is there for how to navigate the typical business idea of “mutually beneficial transactions?”
There is none.
You deal with … well … dealing one by one the best you can all the while trying to not lose sight of the desired objective <which can be covered in a deep fog on occasion>.
The next generation of business leaders deserve experienced people who attempt to explain complexity rather than serve up trite simplistic soundbites which over time simply amount to a steaming pile of bullshit. While I have a bunch of concerns with regard to what we are, and are not, teaching the next generation of business thinkers the one I am mostly concerned with resides in the simplistic shit shared by multimillion dollar business authors and the hundreds of books you can buy which all offer “simplistic advice for business success.”
There is absolutely nothing simple about business. Misrepresenting reality, the business truth, should be called out and chastised even if it is some high falutin’ author of famous business books. We owe it to the next generation of thinkers to teach the complex and not some trite soundbites. That is, as I mentioned earlier, the deal we need to make with the reality of the business future.