The (New) New Economy

17Jun09

When I announced yesterday that I was leaving the industry that had hosted me for 18 years, many friends naturally asked what I was going to do next.  Judging from the pregnant pause before they continued, I’m pretty sure that, “I have no idea” was not what they expected to hear.  In our culture, particularly if you’re of Boomer age, it is axiomatic that you don’t leave something without having the next something firmly in hand.  I know that’s what my parents held as truth.

To be fair, as far as W-2 jobs go that’s probably prudent, especially with jobs as scarce as they are now.  However, as the self-employed have long known (and corporate employees are now learning so harshly) the only real security lies in being positioned in a vibrant market that has high-impact problems that you can solve.

The subtitle of the above-titled article in this month’s Wired magazine explains succinctly why I’m so excited about jumping off into the great unknown right now:  “The era of the huge conglomerate is over.  The future of business will  be more startups, fewer giants, and infinite opportunity.”  It goes on to add, “This crisis is not just the trough of a cycle but the end of an era.  We will come out not just wiser but different.”  “…the next new economy, the one rising from the ashes of this latest meltdown, will favor the small.”

Wired cover 17.06

“Infinite opportunity.”  Does it get any better than that for anyone with even a modicum of entrepreneurial spirit?

Almost 20 years ago when I went to work for Donald Dell at ProServ, on my first day he gave me a card containing 10 principles he encouraged me to embrace.  I’ve long since forgotten the first eight, but the last two have stuck with me:

9.   Read unusual things.

10. Cultivate unusual people.

In support of #9, Trevor Goss, a young entrepreneur in San Francisco with startup DubMeNow, encouraged me to get this month’s Wired, whose cover story title suggested the title of this post.  Since I read everything on my Kindle, it had been quite awhile since my last look inside a bookstore.  The array of new business titles at Borders was notable.  Resolved to fully honor principle #9, in addition to Wired I also bought: Fast Thinking (“How Innovation Works”); strategy+business from booz&co (teasing with “The Best Years of the Auto Industry Are Still to Come”); MIT’s Technology Review (“Can Technology Save the Economy? Yes. But take a deep breath.”); National Geographic (“Energy for Tomorrow — Repowering the Planet”); E – The Environmental Magazine (“The Big Rush to Seriously Downsize Our Homes”); Solar Today (“Leading the Renewable Energy Revolution”).

For now, kick-starting my broad-spectrum idea factory after focusing on a single industry for 18 years, these handful of periodicals with their titles full of possibility are exactly what I need — proof that a lot of very cool stuff is emerging from the economic meltdown.  I suspect that my biggest challenge won’t be finding opportunities, but rather, at some point, finding the discipline to stop indulging in exploring this marvelous potpourri and narrow my focus to one thing where I can have a real impact.

But that, my friends, is for another day.  Right now, I’m reveling in discovering all the possibilities.

What are you reading that excites you about the future?  Use the Comment field to let me know.

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4 Responses to “The (New) New Economy”

  1. 1 Amy Knapp

    Mike:
    someone sent me your post today and I wish you the best. I’m reading Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate by Wendy Johnson and this passage seemed pertinent to you:

    “When the Buddha first began to teach, a magical deity visited him in the night and asked this question:
    The inner tangle and the outer tangle —
    This generation is entangled in a tangle.
    So I ask you,
    Who succeeds in untangling this tangle?
    The Buddha’s answer was simple and direct: the one who sits down in the middle of his or her life and looks with attention, calm and resolute, has a change to untangle the tangle…”

    Good luck to you! Amy

    • 2 Mike O'Horo

      Amy,
      It’s taken me two months to get to a place where your quoted passage resonated more than intellectually. I guess I had to bang my head against the wall of “repeating the same process” with enough frequency and intensity to exhaust it as a remedy! Where I’ve ended up is where I think your cited passage intended: It’s time to leave the business stuff alone for awhile and work on me, because the me I’ve always been has used up all its creativity. We’ll see how much creativity the me I’m about to become will have.

      Thanks for your prescience. Hope all is well in your world.

      • 3 Amy Knapp

        To continue in a spiritual vein, this reminds me of the biblical mandate to allow a field to lie fallow one year out of seven so that it can remain fertile. You may be overdue… Enjoy it, friend!

  2. I remember WIRED during the Internet bubble days – This “New Economy” cover makes me chuckle – laugh, actually. Remember the old “New Economy” – those were the days. I guess new economy forecasts are good for 18 months nowadays… I have to read the article. Thanks for posting it!

    My thoughts – just from the front cover:

    Detroit is dead, not redefined. The new versions of GM and Chrysler still have to survive in a much weaker economy that will persist for the next decade. It seems bankruptcy has lost its meaning in today’s apocalyptic world. Redefined – The great age of the transfer of responsibility – and fancy terminology so we all feel better.

    It’s interesting that the article points to “smaller” at the same time there’s socialism (nationalism, really) on the front cover as one of the Venn diagram domains. Yes, I think the entrepreneur and even technology worker will survive. Unfortunately, most others won’t. This will further deepen the chasm between the haves and have nots – and create a lot more have nots. Think lots of rent a cops and higher crime rates.

    Ah, Googleeconomics – not sure how that will play out going forward. Making it on the Internet is tough business. If they’re talking about Google prospering, I could buy that. If they’re talking about the Google model prospering on the Internet, in general, I’m less hopeful. There will be winners, of course, but the majority will try and fail (of course, again). Unfortunately, the VC money that used to back all this “trying” has (will) dry up as the stock market continues to fall.


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