Muscle is not enough

Ever since I spent a week at a business modelling bootcamp together with – among others – a couple of quite secretive NSA employees, I have been fascinated by lean innovation within the military.

Why? Because I can’t think of a much bigger – pardon me – clash of philosophies; one is nimble, lean and mean, the other is cumbersome, big, complex and – ok – mean too (albeit in a very different way).

For that reason it is also worth reading Lean Startup guru Steve Blanks reflections on lessons for the new administration on technology, innovation and modern war. It is a fascinating read of two ‘worlds’ colliding but still trying to find a common path forward.

The most jaw dropping nugget for me was the fact that US military has for decades relied on being at the front of tech innovation to an extend that as they developed new technologies, they could also work on countermeasures and thus play both sides at the same time; offence and defence.

That ability has been lost as more and more innovation has moved to the private sector. And it has profound consequences in more aspects than one.

Not only does it say a lot about the US potential to come out of a potential future conflict as the victor. It is no longer guaranteed, although I would still think the US has the upper hand.

It also says a lot about the interconnectivity between government, private enterprise and innovation. That one relies on the other and no chain is stronger than the weakest link. It seems like a lot of new uncertainties have arisen that we now all have to be aware of and deal with.

But the most important point I think is the notion that you can really do more with less. It is no longer the biggest budgets that determines who will prevail. Everybody has a – so to say – fighting – chance, and to some extend it’s more a matter of creativity, skill and ingenuity than brute force.

It can be frightening for sure. But outside the realm of defence it should also serve as a huge inspiration to all those with smaller budgets, less ressources and objectively less muscle:

There is a chance you might come out on top even if the odds and conventional wisdom are stacked against you.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Can you hear the roar?

The anticipation of a repeat of the ‘Roaring 20s’ is growing, as people are starting to see light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel.

However, I think two things are worth noting in this context; who will benefit – and what could follow?

To pick up on the last point first, let’s all remember what happened after the roaring 20s the last time around.

That’s right. Fascism!

Of course there were numerous factors in play not least in Germany with hyperinflation caused by overly massive war reparation payments to the allies. But still. The 20s was not ‘roaring’ for everybody; millions got left behind, and that created a fertile ground for demagogues with terrible ideas.

And that brings me to the second point: Who will it benefit?

I think it’s pretty clear by now that we’re super busy creating a broken society where few have all the money and all the perks, and the vast majority are being left behind through various means. Could be lack of access to education, poor healthcare, poorly paid jobs in ‘the gig economy’; the list seems rather endless.

What that have so far created is a huge ton of friction, which reached a recent climax in the January 6 riots at the US Capitol in Washington DC.

Because let’s be clear: A lot of what was at display that day was rooted in a toxic mix of

  • poor or lacking opportunities in society,
  • incitement amplified by Big Tech and
  • old fashioned demagoguery.

This is also part of the level playing field, we’re looking at when discussing the coming of the new ‘roaring 20s’. It’s a messy thing and by no means all sunshine and opportunity out there.

What does it matter if Peloton is hyped for it’s home fitness portfolio of great products, if few people can afford the investment or ongoing financial commitment in the equipment?

What does yet another streaming service mean, if people are struggling to put food on their tables and thus have no disposable income left for entertainment (other than maxing out yet another credit card – if they can get one).

What does it say when Wolt, a meal delivery service that relies on the working poor as ‘delivery partners’ raises 530M USD to expand their IMHO toxic business model to new geographies and verticals?

If we want the 2020s to roar for real, we need to come up with a better plan.

That could start with figuring out how we can use our skillsets, expertise and our funding to pursue closing the gap between high and low by providing new opportunities that leave people better off and thus fend off the bill to be paid, when the music – or in this case: the roaring – stops.

That is where the real sustainable opportunity is.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)