When I wrote The StartUp Revolution: Fit In or Stand Out, I had a sense that we seeing a community of people creating things, starting things, organising things in their own small way without waiting for permission from big brother or industry gate-keepers.
I felt this big community movement, a breaking down, a decentralization, a lot of micro-businesses popping up, one person, solo-preneurs, starting something at home, from their garages and scaling. I felt this vibe out there of people convening things, doing events, Hookup Dinners, a pioneering feeling where people went back to doing things for themselves.
TED conference moved from one or two main events in a few cities to a decentralized movement where a community of TEDxers mushroomed all over the world. Suddenly a small community of passionate people in a remote village can share stories and talk about ideas worth sharing, record their talks, and if a talk is great, it can spread all over the world.
There is this sense of craft, of art at a small level.
One thing that we continue to witness is how for example a small group of people with a video camera can do when their idea goes viral or how a young entrepreneur can revolutionise socks into happy skinny socks, or how someone can write a book, self-publish it, reach many people and change how they view certain things. This is what the startup revolution is about.
If you are really good, if you really care, your customers will find you. This phenomenon of people doing their own things, recording their own albums, shooting their own videos, writing books, organizing an event of like-minded people, starting movements (#FeesMustFall, #RhodesMustFall, #OccupyMovement) is fairly new because you don’t need a TV Ad campaign in order to get attention.
You don’t need to be big to get attention all you need is a noble cause and plenty of guts.
Attention and trust go together. They go together because we need attention to earn trust and once we have trust, it earns us more attention.
But what it also means is that you can’t just follow the recipe, you can’t just follow the manual, the step by step procedure, you cant just be like the guy down the street and be as good as him.
You have to be remarkable, worth talking about in some way otherwise no one will find you.
This is more about art, than it is about science. Science is about following instructions, doing the predictable things, McDonalds is science, Pfizer is science. Little guys like me have no chance against the science businesses, but in the art businesses, the humility and human connection with clients, doing things that might not work, doing things that connect us, doing things for the first time, that’s the art of business.
McDonalds struggles to do the art of connection. It’s the little folks, the guys at The HookUp Dinner, Sbu’s Skinny Sock, The Lazy Makoti, The TEDx movement, who are the artists, the creators, they live on the edge, they dance with uncertainty.
To startups entrepreneurs and other artists, money is not just a thing, it is a story and we need to unpack that story and be disciplined about how not to run out of money in the process of telling stories that resonates with our tribe.
The more you can build a tribe of people, the more likely it is that they will find you and engage with what you make.
The art of making business is terrifying but exciting at the same time. It is terrifying because it might not work, people might reject you.
If your customers don’t like something, they will tell you. But it is exciting because if you can get it right in the small, you stand a great chance of scaling and winning in the big.
The fact that you can organize an event, setup your own shop, have attention, and that you will probably fail makes it exciting because even though you may probably fail, you might actually win and you get to do it again and again.
The cool thing about say Miles Davis is that he never said I made a great album and that’s it, I’m done. He never said will I play Kinda Blue over and over again, he never said that, instead once Kinda Blue was done, he then said now how do I make Bitches Brew, how do I make the next album after that and the next and the next. I believe that’s what we are signing up for now, we are signing up for this life of creating and I for one couldn’t be happier.
The customer now requires not just transactions but they require experience. The transaction is the science, and the experiences is art. Science is the order-qualifier, it gets you in the game but the experiences that customers seek are order-winners.
Transactions are done quicker and cheaper on Amazon or McDonalds. If you can’t outcompete Amazon on this, you shouldn’t try.
Customers want connections, they to hear stories that resonates. They want customized service, they want the freedom to choose what suits them.
Business has now gotten more personal. It takes art to be personal. Connecting with people requires more art than science. Systems and process and machines can’t connect with people, it’s people who can connect with people better. This is a huge opportunity when done well, because startups can connect better with their customers than big companies.
This is what makes the art of entrepreneurship, the art of anything worth doing.
Art is about human connection, about responding to customer needs with empathy, sending and responding to customer’s desires, about dancing on the edges of uncertainty.
This art is not taught at Business Schools, you can’t Google dancing on the edges of uncertainty and get a step by step guide to empathy.
Art is about doing something for the first time, navigating with no map, or guidelines. It is about saying “here, I made this, what do you think?”