I noticed the other day that since starting my own business I've met (or come into contact with) many more entrepreneurs, freelancers, and sole traders than I think I would had I still been in corporate life. Part of that is no doubt about wanting to connect with other people who are out there, making a living for themselves from just what they have, what they can create and what they know. Part of it could be because the kind of anything-is-possible vibe that these people have in abundance is so energising and good to be around. It rubs off on you. But I think a lot of it is to do with the fact that there are just so many people out there doing so many interesting things. And I do wonder whether, with the inevitable internal pull that corporate life has, I would have had half the chance to connect with such innovative thinking had I stayed where I was. Inevitably, I think, it has influenced my view of the world.
According to a survey conducted by IBM amongst 1,500 of their number, CEO's identify 'creativity' as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future. Think about that. These are the Chief Execs of some of the biggest corporates on the planet. They could so easily have said vision, or openness, or consistency, or communication skills or even operational effectiveness. But they didn't. They said creativity. Against the backdrop of a world that is now massively interconnected, concludes the report, CEO's believe the future lies in the kind of creativity that will reinvent their customer relationships ("For too many enterprises, the answer is that their customers are increasingly connected, but not to them") and enable greater operational dexterity. The kind of creativity that will disrupt the status quo, disrupt existing business models, and disrupt organisational paralysis.
Easy to say. My cynicism questions whether many conglomerates have the culture or the working practices to continually disrupt in this way. Arguably one of the biggest challenges large incumbent businesses face is that breaking with traditional strategy and planning cycles in favour of continuous, rapid-fire shifts to their business models, and avoiding the kind of 'negative momentum' that hinders their ability to attract the best tech talent. As this Gigaom piece points out, "developers watch to see how fast or slow a platform is gaining or losing acceptance."
Increasingly, big business is competing for talent with the kind of 'positive momentum' facilitated by interesting new tech funding opportunities like Hack Fwd (HT), a 'Dragon's Den for developers' designed to appeal to passionate developers who want to build cool stuff, push what's possible, break new ground, imagine a different future and "turn their game-changing ideas into tech start-ups with global impact".
Pepsico10, the initiative by PepsiCo in partnership with Mashable and Highland Capital to match tech and media startups with mentors and enable them to pilot their technology with PepsiCo brands is smart because it brings innovation in from outside the business. But as the relentless digitisation of media continues, media organisations and content producers of all kinds need to understand that attracting the best talent is not just about the money, but increasingly about the environment and growth opportunity you create. Environments like that created by The Difference Engine, based in Middlesborough – a mentor led acceleration programme for digital businesses that offers not only £20,000 of investment capital and 13 weeks of intensive business development, but a can-do, energetic, focused environment in which they can learn from both mentors and other entrepreneurs.
There's much talk in the industry about how the tech world needs to be brought closer to the world of media and advertising. I'd suggest that it's the other way round. It was notable that when FastCompany profiled the 100 most creative people in business, there were plenty of technology entrepreneurs but not one person from the ad industry. Bringing the media and advertising industry closer to the kind of agile working practices and entrepreneurial culture that characterise technology start-ups is perhaps the only way it will maintain its relevance.