Envisioning Future Networks Now

With so many people choosing to become entrepreneurs, what does that look like? Especially during this Great Recession? What 3 trends may be developing? Trends you can jump on and drive?
Our Great Recession is far from over, and its trajectory continues to defy many experts and pundits alike. Why’s that? Many keep looking to the future while staying stuck in the past. Our current economic mess, and it is a mess regardless of what label historians will ultimately stick on it, is just as different from the “first” Great Depression as the Second World War was from the First.

Many changes are happening, and are happening faster and faster. Globalization, relocalization, sustainable economics, the linkage of environmental and social responsibility to economics and finance, integrated and mobile digital technologies, and the global long war on terrorism all squeeze the status quo.

Amid all this pressure, however, opportunities await and trends are discernable. As alchemists once believed they could transmute lead to gold and we do know intense pressure transforms carbon into diamonds, so too can you generate value from great change.

As governments and businesses big and small crumble and new ones arise, so do new systems and ways of thinking and doing things arise. Once an organization moves beyond the personality cult phase of a charismatic founder, for instance, what changes often occur? They usually decentralize with a top-down command and control structure being replaced by network or web hierarchies. It doesn’t mean the relationships are looser, however; just that power with corresponding responsibility is more diffused rather than concentrated.

Two trends I see that entrepreneurs can benefit from and already seem to be are 1) cooperative enterprises, and 2) network entrepreneurship. A third may be developing, too, a new form of apprenticeship facilitated by Internet-based technologies.

As businesses decentralize, we see increasing numbers of successful cooperative corporations, or coops for short, from around the planet. They range from cooperative farmers, craftspeople, artists, and builders in developing countries to retail giants such as Seattle’s REI. Most of them, including REI, are performing well as their more traditional competition takes big hits.

Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this trend. Many already are. The future, which is now, includes a vast network of solo entrepreneurs and small businesses weaving in and out among and with each other in short-term arrangements. These temporary arrangements are project driven.

Instead of long-term contracts or jobs, we’re seeing more entrepreneurs coming together to cooperate on projects. Often these may be multiple, overlapping projects. When the project is complete, then the team of entrepreneurs swarms out in different directions to tackle new projects. Or search for them. Globalization and the mobile Internet facilitate this trend, and digitalization accelerates it.

Technology is also enhancing and speeding up what seems to be a third trend. We’re seeing the return of apprenticeship, something we associate from the distant past. Industrialization killed off apprenticeship and the guilds.

Now anyone with access to the Internet can link up with anyone else around the planet. As a result swarms of solo entrepreneurs buzz about seeking to connect with clients, vendors, and other entrepreneurs. Many of them are so new they need mentors to guide them and experienced masters to train them. So a new, postmodern form of apprenticeship may be emerging, one enhanced by technology and whose values include cooperation and collaboration to create value and build wealth.

As we navigate this recession together and follow our hearts as entrepreneurs, Seth Godin, one whom I study, left me squirming with his razor-like ability to see distinctions. Are you “building a job” or “building a business?” While “either can work,” he says, “don’t confuse them.”

Goodness, I squirmed a lot! Am I building a job thinking I’m building my business? We entrepreneurs, however, are a different lot. We must be or we’ll end up stuck and crushed. As Seth concluded, for entrepreneurs “the gig is building the gig.”

As we move through this pivotal time in our history, let’s go do it. With conscious intention. As a series of projects. Together. Let’s go build our gigs.

William Dudley Bass

Seattle, Washington

NOTES: Originally posted in Biznik, the awesome entrepreneurial, small business, and social media marketing network on August 1, 2011 and here on November 9, 2011.

Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass.

Comment on this article:

  • Real Estate Sales & Internet Guerrilla Marketing Kirkland, Washington Julie Hutton
    Posted by Julie Hutton, Kirkland, Washington | Aug 15, 2011

    “…a new form of apprenticeship facilitated by Internet-based technologies.”

    I agree. I think this is happening already AND it is much needed. It will cut the ‘up-and-running’ time” by years.

  • Author, Analyst, Activist, Speaker, Creative Writer Seattle, Washington William Dudley Bass
    Posted by William Dudley Bass, Seattle, Washington |Aug 23, 2011

    Julie, thank you. You’re probably correct here, and I’m betting that it wasn’t as visible as other trends to me because in my mind apprenticeships almost disappeared in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

    Many guilds to survive industrialization, for example, morphed into labor unions. So apprenticeship in the Postmodern digital age won’t look like pre-Industrial apprenticeship nor will it resemble white-collar mentoring.

    Apprenticeship as it evolves in our rapidly-paced era will likely be much shorter in duration, may be more specific to tasks and applications per projects, and may involve one being an apprentice to multiple masters in different businesses. Probably most apprentices will be self-employed rather than an employee of the master, going full-tilt boogie anyway.

    Julie, thanks for shining a light on that topic within a topic.


    NOTE: These comments were copied & pasted over from responses to the original Biznik article.

    Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.


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