Recently we have heard some politicians promise to take us back to the ‘good old days’ in order to make their countries ‘great’ again. And yet when their voters were asked when exactly the good old days were, they could not could come up with a period where, under scrutiny, was not as good as it is today.
In business too, it is vitally important not to be nostalgic. Good periods in the past, always had their downsides and to be honest, are often not relevant to the current situation. I do believe, however, that there is a great deal we can learn from history, especially on the impacts of technological change. But history only best serves as an indicator of the direction in which we should not be heading, rather than the one we should take.
The secret to making any significant improvement in business or society is to invent new visions that do not fix a problem as such but rather create new environments where the old way is no longer even relevant. For example, at a certain time, you need to forget about making chemical based camera film better and invent a totally new approach to capturing images, such as with the invention of the digital camera.
We can take this argument further by creating a parallel with the creation of new laws. Laws are nearly always created as a reactionary process. i.e. when something we don’t like happens we try to legislate to prevent it from happening again. However, the real challenge is not to try and stop the bad things from happening but to create an environment where they are no longer relevant. For example, when people and goods were transported by horses there was a great deal of cruelty to horses. And even if politicians saw a benefit for themselves to pass laws to try and reduce the level of cruelty, the only real solution was to invent a world where horses were no longer needed for commercial reasons.
It’s a bit like the challenge facing our borders. Ultimately you have two options, to try and invent better and more efficient ways to defend them, or to find a way to dispense with borders altogether. After all, it’s not that radical a concept. Our European forefathers found a way to break down the borders and tax barriers that surrounded their cities in order to stimulate free movement and trade. I appreciate that, for now, someone might still see a benefit in checking my passport at the border, but I am yet to still to be convinced that there is any real benefit in doing so.
Today, I am constantly on the lookout for people that are prepared to think a long way outside the box. People who can visualize, philosophize and invent new business solutions based upon new concepts, rather than outdated paradigms. Solutions that look into the future and offer the potential of something significantly better than what we have today.
Have a good week,