For those of you starting or in your first couple years of entrepreneurship, you may have taken note of a salient business fact. And that’s how launching a successful small business feels so very complex in today’s day and age. Truthfully, you may already feel overwhelmed by the shear number of hats you have to wear.
When I mentor newer businessowners, there’s one lesson I get out of the way from the start. And that’s how everything you’ve read about owning a successful small business is wrong. Hell, half of what you’ve read about running a big corporation is probably wrong too.
This endeavor you’ve launched is going to challenge you in ways you can’t expect. And you have to traverse a contemporary landscape that is full of complexity. Plus, it’s fucking really hard, and few writers are willing to admit that. Best of all, you’re probably doing it as the ships captain while still building your management skills. “Building your parachute on the way down,” as many entrepreneurs have described it.
So, let’s talk about how you deal with that modern complexity in business. More from today’s guest, professor of complex systems science, Yaneer Bar-Yam:
It could be argued that this picture, [the transition to de-centralized business structures] describes much of the dynamics of modern corporations. Upper levels of management have turned to controlling fiscal rather than production aspects of the corporation. In recent years, corporate downsizing has often been primarily at the expense of the middle management, resulting in a reduction of payroll and little change in production. Hierarchical control has been replaced by decision teams introduced by corporate restructuring; and the reengineering of corporations has focused on the development of task related processes that do not depend on hierarchical control.
Boiled down, he means that large businesses have adapted to the complication of the times by stripping away hard top-down control. And in favor of leaner and more fluid. At the same time, this results in executive leadership, at least in corporations, that can be fairly divorced from the realities of the brand.
Inadvertently, this is why small businesses have a true competitive advantage over megacorporations: many are merely disembodied corpses surviving on golden bailouts and increasingly dumbed-down specialists.
For Bar-Yam, this is all fine, since the new realities of complexity are so much bigger than one man. In his work, linked above, organizations take center stage. And he’s more focused on the differences in connections and production. Unfortunately, he largely glosses over the role of the individual in wrangling an intricate world on their own.
Say hello to us intrepid entrepreneurs. The rugged, street-smart, and totally on-our-own businessman!
How do we fit in to all this organizational complexity?
Although Bar-Yam briefly mentions the use of “decision teams” within corporations, he misses the lesson of these teams. And we can also probably connect them to some other recent corporate initiatives to mimic, however formulaic, the entrepreneurial process. Perfect examples are “business incubators” or risky buy-outs of smaller businesses.
Successful teams typically rely, from my broad experience, on key decision-makers.
And the very best of them aren’t simply any old individual. Instead, they’re usually a combination of driver, visionary, and influencer. Often, they’re also ruthless generalists, as opposed to the average, low-IQ specialists of our age. Additionally, they tend to be autodidactic and very-intelligent, intuitive thinkers.
Put another way: in a world of mediocre professionals afraid of decision-making, one savvy man can do the work of a team. And there’s no reason to assume that a team can tackle complexity any better than that single, talented individual.
Still, how does this type of individual approach business complexity?
They find their zone.
Or what’s known in psychology as a flow state of hyper-focus, information processing, and the collapsing of action and awareness. Now, I’m sure the professor might object given that the brain is still only capable of processing a certain amount of information at a given time. Amusingly, he even mentions the human brain in passing.
But your brain is remarkably able to adapt and stunningly complex itself. And it can manage and channel the world’s crazy intricacies, even at larger scales, as good as anything else.
Either way, finding your creative genius in business—getting in the zone—takes a balance of intellect and execution.
For you newer entrepreneurs, my suggestion is to ensure you’re in a business where you excel, generally speaking. And that you have an interest and passion for that industry. It’s also probably good if your core product or service idea has some indication of demand in the market. Then, when you give yourself into it with everything you have and all your hours, you’ll find what a “decision team” does in a month, you do in a week.
Oh, of course, it doesn’t hurt to get a business mentor who’s been there before, if only for your own sanity.
As always, you can hit me with an email if you need that mentor.