We are all going to face a new framework for personal success in the emerging era of A.I., platforms, apps and global platforms. And a big part of figuring out the solution will lie in self-discovery, self-reliance, and individual initiative. There will be tremendous opportunities for every one of us, but they will not come automatically. We each have to work hard at our own vision and our own pathway. Happily, emergent technologies are giving us access to all the resources we will need.
New Baseline: Individual Values, Individual Action.
When Dr. Saras D. Sarasvathy studied entrepreneurial expertise, one of her core conclusions was that effective entrepreneurs start not with an idea, but with a question: “Who am I?” It’s a question about values. Entrepreneurship is based on empathy with others and a drive to provide service that is both creative and moral. Individual entrepreneurs recognize when their personal values are aligned with the entrepreneurial role. It’s at that point they become excited and energized. The entrepreneur leads a noble, high-value life. Once anchored in their values, entrepreneurs can take action. They can conceive of and chart out a navigable future. An entrepreneur might decide on a start-up; on helping manage another founder’s early stage company, or to start a small, local business, or to be an independent contractor, designer, code-writer, or project manager.
“Values plus action” is the point where the journey begins. “What are my values? What can I do?”
Augmentation: We All Have New Means.
The new technologies that we are all able to use represent a kind of entrepreneurial superintelligence. Dr. Sarasvathy’s second question for entrepreneurs is: “What do I know?” Today, and in the immediate future, you can answer: I am a person with access to any knowledge I need and to tools of immense power. I am networked to virtually everyone in the world, who can provide knowledge, resources, and collaboration on any issue. All resources are accessible to me. There are no insurmountable barriers.
Interconnectivity is the new power tool to assemble whatever means the entrepreneur requires. AI, especially in the form of individually tailored cognitive assistants attuned to specialized knowledge, is the ultimate augmentation resource. The cloud provides computing power, and global platforms provide market exchanges for the talent, services, and products the entrepreneur requires to build out a business. Scale is no longer an advantage for incumbent businesses. The enterprise of one, or a few, is perfectly viable.
Networking is important in answering Dr. Sarasvathy’s third question: “Who do I know?” Potentially, you can know everyone you want or need to know. Not only does social software such as LinkedIn make it easy to connect to people, it enables the establishment of common ground and shared ideas in groups of shared interest. Your parents may have thought you were wasting your time on Facebook, but, in fact, you were developing an invaluable skill for the new era of work.
Global Exchange: New Channels Are Opening.
If you are a B2B entrepreneur, you can target and reach your potential customers with astounding accuracy. You can provide them with product and service demos over the Internet via video-friendly software, you can SEO your persuasive content so that they find you when they search, and you can A/B test your most creative messaging. If you are a B2C entrepreneur, you can sell direct to consumers, build a virtual supply chain for fast delivery, and never have to operate a store or a warehouse or own any inventory. If you are looking for an employer, you can author your own profile so as to make an ideal match with their AI-assisted recruitment bot. Whatever your choice, there is an open channel for you.
Disintermediation: Remove Friction and High Cost.
Peer-to-peer trading platforms and new digital exchange mechanisms such as distributed ledger technology are by-passing bankers, brokers, lawyers, etc., and opening up new opportunities for direct exchange. This is a trend that will provide a wind of efficient change at the back of the individual entrepreneur.
New Organizational Forms: Join an Organization or Create a New One.
The reconfigurable collaborative network is now a reality. An individual joins by contributing unique skills and knowledge, inviting others with complementary skills and knowledge, completing a task in collaboration with others, exiting when the task is completed, and paying or earning based on value contribution. These organizations are flexible, continuously reconfigurable, efficient, and results based. You can join one or start one.
What This Means for Spontaneous Order and New Organizations.
The twenty-first century is the global century. One of the more interesting global leaders to define our new era is Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba. Ma does not think of Alibaba as a company, but as an economy. Through a seamless, transparent transaction system, Alibaba makes it possible for all individuals and all small business entrepreneurs to conduct e-commerce via the Internet and globalize their individual business. If Alibaba were a country, it would rank number 21 or 22 on the GDP league table of countries. In the next three years, Alibaba will grow beyond $1 trillion. By the year 2036, Ma hopes, Alibaba will be the 5th largest economy of the world, that is America, China, Europe, Japan, and the Alibaba economy.
It will be a virtual economy that every small business of the world can leverage. They can sell their products across the world, to every consumer of every country. They can buy and sell things through their mobile phone or any device anywhere in the world. Everything a seller places on the line, within 72 hours, the buyer will receive. Of course, Alibaba does not own that economy. Ma wants to join forces with all the people of the world to build that economy. Ma’s vision is for global integration, transcending country, industry, and enterprise. Alibaba is an example of democratization of opportunity for entrepreneurs on a platform that creates a scalable global exchange economy with access, transparency, and low cost to the businesses. Alibaba does not develop its own content, just a system that enables others.
It’s just one example of an enabling global platform. We can all be global entrepreneurs. Interconnectivity will empower us, and Jack Ma (and others) will give us the tools.
It’s Up To Us – Each Of Us.
Augmentation, Universal Access, Social Networking, Disintermediation, and Global Exchanges will extend the invitation to each one of us to be an effective entrepreneur. It’s an invitation we should all accept.
Adapted from The Interconnected Individual: Seizing Opportunity In The Era Of AI, Platforms, Apps and Global Exchanges by Hunter Hastings and Jeff Saperstein.