Mobile living

There has been a lot of talk lately about the mobile revolution. A shift which is here to stay which will forever change communications, commerce and culture. But most people are wrong about this revolution. Yes, mobile living is here, but it’s not about that piece of technology which lives in our pockets. No, the mobile phone is a symptom, not the cause.

The mobile phone is really an inevitable invention. In both the agrarian and industrial era we became less itinerant as a species. We instead invested our time on farms, then institutions and factories. We built suburbs and shopping centers and structured the largest parts of our working and social lives in tiny geographic clusters. We shifted our living structure from itinerant opportunists (think hunter gatherer) to become sedentary factors of production. Widget living within, and upon the industrial machine. Mind you, the machine was a better option than life before it arrived. It made us richer, smarter, taller, warmer, cooler, healthier and less hungry. But the machine (the industrialized world) has now began to set us free to explore again. Which was the wayit always was prior to this 200 year human anomaly. Industrial systems became so profitable and improved living standards so much, that technology has conspired to bring back mobility. Mobility will be a defining life pattern for humans as we move into the next era of our species. Certainly this is the case with developed economies. The exponential deflationary effect of technological developments has created a new form of mobility in many corners of life. Most of which occurred well before the symptom of the mobile or cell phone emerged.

Let’s consider of these examples:

How much more mobile is your working life? How many offices, workplaces, co-working hubs, conferences do you attend? How often do you change jobs and commence work in a new suburb, city, state or country?

How often do you eat out? Our parents went out on special occasions. We now eat out a number of times a week and even go our for breakfast or cross town for the best coffee.

How often do you catch an Airplane? Something that was once the domain of the rich, is now something we do at the last minute to go see a music festival a thousand miles away. Since 1990 the amount of passenger miles in travel has increased 4 fold, while the average price of a 1 hour flight has more than halved.

Even Space travel is back! Every billionaire worth his salt has started a private space travel venture as the final frontier is even being democratized.

Compare the above examples to how our parents and grand parents lived.

Our lives are becoming more mobile in every way, because we are no longer tied to the factory or the farm. We are now entering the 2nd phase of human hunting and gathering, but this time we are hunting for information, creativity and culture. All the stuff we lost during the standardization that came with the industrial era.

So when we think about the mobile revolution, we owe it to ourselves as entrepreneurs to consider human movement, and not just a single piece of technology we take with us in our pocket.

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The end of Fredrick W Taylor

Then:

Taylorism defined our world for the best part of the past 100 years. Even in marketing realms. During the mass media era, we could use tested methods to go to market with predictable success – so long as we had access to the right resources.

Now:

Rapid change and fragmentation is the new normal. While we are half way through planning, someone else will arrive and do it different, cheaper, better and in a way we never quite expected. Both in terms of what they build and how they spread the word.

Therefore:

Our mindset when it comes to startups and business (isn’t everyone in business a startup now?) should be fluid and philosophical. It’s time to drop the template and best practice six sigma bull crap.

It is very hard for a best practice to exist when something has never been done before.

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The last industrial relic

You probably don’t know this but the office is a weird thing that only turned up when factories did. Sure Lawyers and accountants had them, but not in the corporate form they exist in today. The office was an addendum to where stuff got built. It was there by accident, it was there because the tools of the trade (office machinery) had not been democratized to the point where we could own and have them in our home. The strange thing is that, now we can work from home, the large majority of us still don’t. Not because we don’t want to, but mainly because large corporations lack trust.

Many of us would save time and money if they did not exist (both people & corporations)

I think it’s the last industrial relic. It needs to be radically changed, even the name office is wrong. It sounds ‘official’ and full of rules. Sure we do need to work together sometimes – but personally I’d rather do that in some kind of creative collaboration space.

If offices really add that much value, then why do startups never have them? It’s because entrepreneurs know they are expensive to run, out dated and redundant.

Jason Fried gives us his synopsis on this topic at a recent TED talk. Which I love – it’s 20 minutes worth investing:

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Falling in love with infrastructure

Here’s a list of companies who should’ve done something, yet instead, let someone else do it for them. And in being asleep at the wheel, they will never be as powerful (read relevant) again.

Yellow Pages should have become… Google
Encyclopaedia Britannica should have become… Wikipedia
RCA / Sony / BMG / EMI / Warner should have become… iTunes
Newspaper classifieds should have become… Craigs List
Trading Post should have become… eBay
Barns & Noble should have become… Amazon
Industry X could well become… Your startup

The key point is this. The future doesn’t care about your legacy, or how things were done in the past, it only cares about what people actually want. And people don’t care about your existing infrastructure, they only care about themselves.

There’s a million more of these examples out there, and many more to come. The question is which industry will you disrupt because they are too in love with their existing infrastructure?

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If money didn’t exist

If money didn’t exist what would we do differently? Let me first remind us what this would mean.

In this imaginary moneyless it would mean: That we all had enough to eat. That we all had a place to live. That we all have equal access to healthcare and education. That we wouldn’t get paid for our work. That no-one gets paid for the work they do, in dollars at least.

It means that we do in during the day has an entirely different perspective. In this imaginary world it make sense that we choose our line of work carefully. The work itself, becomes the thing that matters.

It turns out that this is also the best approach for a world that does actually have money.

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My family is fine, how is yours?

I was interested in reading an article in this weekends Australia Financial Review which was titled ‘What worries the rich?’ – Firstly, who cares? Not me. Not because they are rich, just that it is an irrelevant question. We all have worries, and the worries of a particular demographic are no more important than any other demographic. However, in reading one particular persons comments I was astounded at the irony.

The rich person in question was Bruce Mathieson, who has a net wealth of over $1 billion. He said:

“I’d hate to think that I had a lot of money  but my family and everyone around me were unhappy. That would be an absolute disaster.”

For anyone who doesn’t know, Bruce made the majority of his wealth via Poker Machines. Here is a guy who “sells hope, and provides misery” – claiming he’d hate to make anyone unhappy. Is he serious?

Poker machines provide nothing good to society. The only thing that poker machines are good at, is redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. And governments falsely believe the tax revenue outweighs the cost of the social ills they create.

You might think this is slightly off topic for startup blog. But for me it sent me a clear message about what business is all about. Creating value for all those who participate in the value chain – not one sided value.  If the cost of being wealthy, was creating heart ache for people, I’d rather be poor. In addition, I like to think we are entering an age where wealth creation is more often a result of creating value for society, not by tricking people.

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Imaginative work

I read a great quote today which I thought was worth sharing:

“There is a recognition dawning that the repetitive linear system which controls work and the worker is no longer profitable. Consequently, the presence of the soul is now welcome in the workplace. The soul is welcome because it is the place where the imagination lives.”

What I like about this is the reference to profit, and that linear systematic work isn’t profitable. If I think about every startup I’ve ever been involved with the real profit has come from the excitement and variety of the work. Internal profit rather than financial. And so my soul has been enriched.

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