WHO ARE YOU REALLY?
Yes, really, who are you?? Last week, I did a mini-survey on Facebook and Linkedin, about one of the most important path choices you have in Life in general, and in your entrepreneurial life in particular. That is if you are a person who prefers to follow rules or to deliver results, or if you are the one reengineering the rules so it generates the intended results. And we got three clear directions 😉
THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ROAD CHOICES IN LIFE
1) THE PREFECT: Almost a tenth (12%) of us prefer to follow the rules regardless of whether it gives the intended result (“There has to be some order!”)
2) THE ENTREPRENEUR: The majority of (52%), on the other hand, preferred to deliver results regardless of whether it is done according to the rules or not (“Something has to happen!”)
3) THE LEADER: Just over a third (36%) work and lobby passionately to change the rules so it delivers the intended result (“It cannot go on this way!”).
As an entrepreneur in soul and heart, I am born as №2, am grateful for the balance with those who in soul and heart are born as №1, while others would claim that all disruptive things I do probably contribute to №3.
But above all, I think the balance between these three is the key to very, very (!) much. In this, the balance has contextually different proportions in different companies in different types of markets in different phases of its life cycle.
TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONTEXTS
In a disruptive market, it is probably very healthy too, just as you make room for the true entrepreneurs in a startup, also in large companies make room for true intrapreneurs that only want to act. These are the ones who do ten crazy things that do not follow any rules at all, which in parallel must be balanced against a few “prefects”, or the orderly so that there will not be chaos and anarchy in the company.
But after that, when it turns out that eight of these crazy things did not deliver (and thus should fail fast), while two are fantastic and mean a total change for not only the company but entire markets, then the “leaders” must step. in. These are the ones who make sure that the entre-/intrapreneurs are ok in “killing their darlings” while ensuring that the two winning disruptions are taken in by just the whole company — where a transformation is carried out with an adaptation of all “rules” (processes, WoW, governance, etc) according to the new technology/business model/product.
This probably generates natural friction from the orderly who is not as fond of change, which is compensated by them being the most engaging in the process according to the new “rules” once they are set.
In another context, such as an established market without major changes in the world around us, the same triangle drama applies but in different proportions. Here, it is natural that it is the orderly people, the “prefects”, who are given the largest room in the company, who run it with the highest commitment and best results. But in order not to stagnate, even companies in conservative markets need some degree of change to gain ground and secure their competitive advantage, where it makes sense to always have a few intrapreneurs who are given room to maneuver for innovation and creativity.
The challenge for the traditional company is probably to “retain” such genuine intrapreneurs in this more “rigid” climate, but if you succeed to keep them, they must be taken seriously where some of the innovations are noticed and tested. And once they do, the leaders — now with quite big challenges against the large group of orderly ones — must push through a transformation towards new rules to achieve success in the company.
HOW MATCHING BEATS VALUE
In some companies, the word “consensus” might be one of the commandments, and “friction” between different points of view may not be appreciated as much as in companies where it will be more natural to put diversity before unity. At the same time, it is in change management in general, and a triangular drama like this with endless iterations between rules and results in particular, inevitable with friction — perhaps especially between the first and the second role, but also between the third who tries to mediate between the two others.
So, of course, with such friction, the entrepreneurial can feel that the orderly is sometimes perceived less as a workmate than an opponent of a certain change that he or she perceives is necessary for the company’s success or even survival. And then it is important to take in that the orderly feel the same way, i.e. that the entrepreneurial is not always perceived as a workmate but more as an opponent against the calm, secure order with all the good work that the orderly has established his life after and excelled so long with.
It feels like, as always, it’s all about empathy for the other person’s perspective on the one hand, and not putting any value on any of the three different roles in this triangle drama on the other. That is, there is no “right or wrong” personality, but that there is only a context that determines whether it is a good match right now and whether the timing is right for the different kinds of personalities to get or take a more or less prominent role in the process.
HOW THIS WORKS IN OTHER CONTEXTS IN LIFE
And contemplating the case further, it seems that this triangle drama of rules and results not applies only to startups, unicorns, and large traditional companies — but perhaps even as much for countries, families, sports, and friendship?
Because think about it, all this can be directly transferred to countries and in the era of globalization even to continents. Where those who lead the country in a time of stability invest everything in established companies and organizations (the “orderly” ones) that contribute to security and welfare for the citizens. While in times of dynamic external changes, one must stimulate investment in startups and spin-offs at companies, and internal innovations in organizations where conditions are created for entrepreneurs to be given a business-friendly climate, while intrapreneurs are backed by good parachutes to dare to take turns.
Everything that is then re-regulated by far-sighted state leaders (the “leaders”), when we have seen what the result will be so disruptive that we’re moving towards a new country, or even a completely new continent, adapted to a modern way of meeting global competition in technologies, business models and/or products.
And we do not even have to be so pompous, because if we go to our most intimate core, think about how it works in the family? Imagine how a perhaps more traditional mother or father (the “orderly”) thinks that this is how we do things in our family, to some extent perhaps taken from their upbringing and values. And then the creative kids (the “entrepreneurs”) come and find lots of new fun ways to do things, some “fun” and mischief that are probably not so good neither for their development nor for their surroundings, but also some incredible things that only give lust and joy not only to them but to the whole family or peers.
Is it not then that one only hopes that the other parent or some grandmother or grandfather (“the leader”) goes in and persuades the orderly that it is time to reconsider how we do things in the family in the future — or that it is at least “ok” for those who want to do it?
The same goes for friendship, with someone who loves the continuity and always promotes what we’ve always done in the gang, while some have a little crazier ideas about how to think and what to do together, while others are a little more sifting and mediating in between.
And in sports where we have the cruel old traditionalists (e.g. traditional budo) who are incomparable in teaching old ways of training. This then interspersed with inspiration from some who have more creative solutions to training, some of which prove so effective or fun that they are accepted or even hailed by more forward-thinking leaders who are working to introduce them as new wonderful routines in training (and all of a sudden, BJJ and MMA were invented).
And we can go on and on. For every social layer you turn to, regardless of whether it is about education and health care, learning leisure and fun, it almost seems that the balance between those who like rules or results, v / s those who have taken as their life task to like to reengineer the rules so they give results, is a more or less universal truth.
A SHORT POSTLUDE
There are a lot of things to argue against here, e.g. truly dynamic people or companies can have — or at least think they have — all three qualities, which they alternate based on need. The selection for the “survey” itself is also both too small and also “biased” towards my network — I have 50,000 followers from 110 countries so the population is at least quite ok, but I guess there may be a higher proportion of both entrepreneurs and leaders in the gang so to speak :)
But just like Plato, I argue in this case that the question is significantly more important than the answer. So which of these path choices have you made yourself? And what role do you think the different choices have in different types of contexts? What other thoughts do you have on the question ;-)
Rufus Lidman, Fil. Lic.
Lidman is a renowned digital entrepreneur and data disruptor, and top tech influencer with 50,000 followers. With dual degrees, PhD-studies complemented with data science as a platform, he is a recognized speaker with over 300 lectures. As a digital entrepreneur, he has run half a dozen ventures with 2–3 ok exits, incl. sites with millions of visits and some of the world’s largest apps in its areas with over 15 million downloads. As his latest ventures, he co-founded the leading talent acquisition company for digital talents in Sweden, Digitalenta, and founded AIAR EdTech in Singapore, using leading technology to reinvent learning for the needy in emerging markets. To that, he adds 4 published books and the world’s largest learning app in digital strategy loved by 200.000 people in 165 countries.