It’s a bad time to be boring. That’s the problem with big businesses, they’re dull, slow and conservative by design. They’re full of people who are focused on managing upwards and not making mistakes. People who talk about innovation, entrepreneurialism and breakthroughs, but have never run a risk.
You just can’t be an entrepreneur with other peoples’ money. They won’t let you. Big companies love safety and certainty, they’re engineered for it from the top all the way down to the bottom line. Institutional investors will even tell giant multinational corporations that they like them precisely because they’re boring.
Contrast that with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are rarely dull because they’re driven to solve a problem, to do something better and to make their mark on the world. They’re passionate, resilient and unreasonable. As Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn said: “In order to jump off a cliff, you kind of have to believe you can assemble a plane on the way down.”
We’re not talking shades of grey, it’s black and white. Entrepreneurs actually enjoy risk. It’s like adrenaline, the hormone that induces the “fight or flight” response. In big companies it induces flight, a rapid retreat to safety. For small entrepreneurial companies it excites them and makes them want to fight. That’s why big companies buy small ones, to get a little taste of risk.
So who is better suited to these crazy times, the stalwart or the upstart? Who is more likely to succeed in the new era volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity? I bet on small.
No business can afford to be boring now, not even the boring ones. So if you’re bored and want to start your own thing, you won’t find a better time than now.
Craig Davis is Founder of Brandkarma and formerly CCO of Publicis Mojo, Saatchi & Saatchi Asia and JWT Worldwide. He is on the Board of Conscious Capitalism and blogs at craigdavisnow.com.