I rethink, therefore I am
In August 2011 I was in Washington on academic business. One evening, together with some class mates, we decided to take a taxi to go to have dinner. We were discussing one of the topics of the day: entrepreneurship. As we were all European, we talked about the perception of the concept in our different countries. Suddenly, our taxi driver, a very friendly man in his 50s, broke into our conversation and shared his experience with us, and what he told us was even more revealing than the morning session given by our professor (who was fantastic, by the way). “I used to have a bookshop in Georgetown”, he started. “It was my life dream”. In the bookshop, he spent wonderful years advising his customers and, one day, Ebooks appeared on the market. “My business started sinking and sinking … And I had to close down”. We held our breath and we were ready to start a conversation about how dramatic it is for small businesses to close. But the driver, not losing his smile, went on with his story. “I closed down the bookshop and then I wondered: what do I enjoy most? What are the things I am good at? Since I love driving, I decided to become taxi driver. And, on the top of that, I said to myself, what the hell! If you cannot fight them, join them! I also became an Ipad teacher. Now I am as happy as I used to be as a bookseller. I love to connect with my passengers in my cab, and I love teaching the old ladies in my neighbourhood how to use their Ipad to facetime with their grandchildren”. The extraordinary lesson of that man from North Virginia left us speechless. And his story still echoes in my head.
A couple of years ago, a very common topic was the VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) and how it will lead to the new normal; and it certainly has. In the last weeks, I see volatility and change everywhere and I am convinced that both concepts represent absolutely positive values. Generations change. Societies change. And the status quo and the way organizations are structured must change too. 15 years from now, 65% of children currently between 6 and 9 years old will work in positions that do not exist today. So, we´d better start now to flow with the times and forget about the past, the status or whatever way things used to be done.
Entrepreneurship as a philosophy is a fascinating way to embrace the new normal. I was delighted at the story of the driver who was an Ipad teacher, but I am discovering many professionals who have turned their passion into their value proposal. They rethought themselves without starting from zero. They simply reformulated their offer and adapted it to new times or to a new situation. In this way, a jobless journalist becomes an influencer with his blog; a former HR reinvents herself as CV Advisor; a resort director becomes a customer experience consultant for boutique hotels. The ability to observe, analyse, adapt and take risks belongs to human nature. Even though it’s true that some generations in specific countries have not been raised in the entrepreneurial culture, we are now all very aware that a permanent job can be as volatile as a freelance project. Welcome to the new normal! And welcome to the new us!
Rethinking and reconsidering everything is intrinsic to the entrepreneurial spirit, which can be applied outside but also inside a company. New organizations praise intrapreneurship as a skill. Intrapreneurs bring forth the drive, the muscle and the added value of an entrepreneur from the structure. When times change, the future of a monolithic organization, which runs by inertia, where the status quo is very strong and everyone holds on tight to their chairs will be a big question mark. Lighter organizations where the boss is a player, whose collaborators are eager to take risks, to bring positive disruptive ideas (and therefore innovate) and are used to being “outside the box” will succeed more in surfing the wave.
Thus, as a professional or as an organization, I rethink, therefore I am. And I am sure that when we look at the mirror after the change, we will like ourselves even more!