Running a business, small or big, is challenging. Whether you’re a team of executives running a giant corporation or 2 brothers running a small family outfit, anyone will tell you that running a business is no walk in the park. It’s hard. And most businesses fail. In 2016, despite all that we know and all that we have, a majority of businesses still fail. Many fail rather quickly, some after decades and very few endure. Fewer even deliver what the founders, the workers or the customers set out to accomplish.
There is a ton of data, research, stories and anecdotes to support the notion. You can probably very easily summon some of those stories of hardship, failures and broken dreams yourself. If you can’t, ask anyone you know to fill you in, just for kicks. Chances are there is a rich lore of sunken ships in the sea of business that surrounds you and your crew.
There are obviously tons of reasons that make it that hard. And within those reasons, there are universal constants, the most obvious one being people. Where there is business, usually, there are always people involved. And people are people. Human nature has evolved greatly some would argue… while others would say that very little has changed in human nature over the course of this 3rd industrial revolution.
And once again, the data, literature, and research ar abundant. Recruiting, hiring, compensating, promoting, supporting, work psychology, workplace culture, ethics, motivation, competition, meetings, memos, politics, you name it, anything and everything involving people can be intricate and ultimately, hard. And among all those things, one has always struck me as fundamental. You could ask if it’s communication because god knows that communication runs deep as the lifeblood of any business of any size anywhere anytime! Communication certainly is quintessential, crucial and paramount.
But yet, there is something running even deeper, actually at the core of communication itself: Information and knowledge. How can you hope, expect, try to run a business successfully without information and without knowledge? Anyone and everyone agree that you obviously need both. You would even argue that most businesses, if not all, make a valiant effort to gather, manage and leverage those facts, that expertise and the notions we’re alluding to. Of course, they do.
But they all inexorably fail, miserably. All businesses catastrophically fail at establishing, maintaining and leveraging a flow of transparent, accurate, unaltered and unbiased stream of facts and data. All of them. Take me to any corporation on the Fortune 500 list and we will easily find scores of information that doesn’t get recorded, gets distorted, biased or hoarded for political agendas… Any one of them, I guarantee it. Take me to any mom and pop shop, any small or micro business and some of the information gets lost, goes unrecorded or isn’t leveraged for the greater good of the business. The reasons vary but the state of affairs is the same. All captains, all ships and all crews in this sea of businesses are navigating while staring at the tips of the icebergs.
They know a little or a lot, they see a little or a lot and they act on it, to the best of their knowledge or ability. And like most icebergs, it’s what doesn’t break the surface that is most problematic and puts the business at risk, day in and day out, constantly, all the time and with no respite. All businesses end up crashing into one at some point. They either get blown up into pieces like a frail wooden raft, fatally crippled like the Titanic or manage to patch the hull and sail to the next lurking ice leviathan.
Map and compass
So what are we to do then? Is big data the solution, is that what I’m referring to? Is it a matter of better communication software, better communication tool, better collaboration platforms? Will Slack help? Is it because we need to be more Agile, will Scrum help? Is a matter of culture, of team spirit? Can technology be the answer? How do we fix it? Can it be fixed?
It’s any and all of that. We need a paradigm shift. We need to turn the corporation and business on its head. We obviously need to change it all. As it’s been changed time and time again over the course of the first, second and third industrial revolution. But first and foremost, for it to have any chance of changing, we need to be aware. And we need to want it.
You need to want the data. You need to want the knowledge. You need the CEO to want to know what the 40 years’ line worker veteran knows. You need to want to know your employees’ motivations, inspirations, opinions, and thoughts. You need to care about what management knows, thinks, wants or hopes for. You need to get real with what the customer wants, thinks and feels. You need to realize that we don’t know. We need to want to deal in facts, not opinions, not thoughts, not strategies, not politics. Facts. Knowledge.
And once we want it bad enough, then we can embark on the next leg of the journey and face the storm of the 4th industrial revolution. The tide is turning. The storm is rising. Wouldn’t you rather we steer our ships into the blue ocean rather than crash them, sink them or run them aground?