Through my work as a
coach, I know hundreds of men and women who have an uncanny ability to
see life through other people’s eyes, to walk through life in other
people’s shoes. This makes them extraordinarily clear and focused in
creating and implementing unique solutions. This innate talent continues
to improve as each of these individuals establishes and cultivates new
This talent, I believe, represents the single most important skill any
entrepreneur can have in the 21st century.
Too Complex To Comprehend.
Over the past 30 years, microchip-based tools and systems have been
applied to countless situations in all sectors of the global economy.
And not only the economy — micro-technology, as we grow to understand
its virtually unlimited applications, is now seen as a crucial factor
for progress in all areas of scientific, political, cultural, and social
development. Simultaneously, all these diverse applications worldwide
have been integrated into vast and myriad communication networks too
complex to comprehend, culminating in what has now become the Internet,
with its billions of daily uses and users.
We now live in a world where, every day, new opportunities for
cooperation and competition emerge that were unimaginable 50 years ago.
But this also means that we live in a world where large numbers of
people are faced with three serious dangers:
The experience of endless change driven by technology confuses people in
many different ways. They lose their sense of where the center of things
is, and they aren’t clear on where to focus their thinking and actions.
Because of this confusion about the present, they don’t know how to
invest their time, energies, and resources to produce a better future.
For many, it’s more difficult to have a sense of personal meaning that
keeps getting stronger; it’s harder to have a sense of purpose that
stays on track.
Traditional forms of community based on mutually supportive
relationships — extended families, small towns, neighbourhoods, church
membership, political parties, fraternal organizations, labor
organizations, sports clubs — have weakened or disappeared from the
lives of many people who live and work in modern settings. Even the most
successful individuals often have few people they can confide in. There
has been an increase in the number of temporary, transactional
relationships in both personal and business spheres. People feel less
commitment to long-term relationships, and they sense the same in
Conventional education is increasingly unable to prepare people
confidently and competently for an unpredictable future. Knowledge and
skills that were relevant five years ago can be worthless today. People
who were successful in one setting find that changing circumstances are
rendering them less useful and valuable. Specialists with 30 years of
successful experience find that they have become redundant. Many people
find that they are falling farther behind in terms of the constantly
changing knowledge and methods that are crucial for success.
This is the bad news about the 21st century. The destructive side of
change is never a pleasant experience. There’s certainly a lot of
destruction already, with much more to come, making life scary,
miserable, dangerous, and even deadly for millions of individuals. This
will be true for the entire century.
Now The Good News.
There’s also good news caused by endless global change. It lies in the
diverse creative opportunities that are born from the destruction of
old, outdated forms that are no longer workable or valuable. An entirely
new set of needs has arisen from this technological revolution, needs
that require entirely different kinds of entrepreneurs.
The Business Of Transforming Complexity.
People need to feel that they’re not alone with complexity. They need to
feel that they are being taken care of, that other people are looking
out for them, that other people care. They want to have a sense of
direction, and they can’t provide this for themselves. They want to feel
confident, but they don’t know how to do this on their own. They want to
feel capable, but they need others to provide them with capabilities.
They simply can’t deal with all the complexity of the world straight on.
Bureaucracies and traditional communities are no longer providing a
buffer between people and the complexity around them. The principal role
of entrepreneurs in this century, then, will be to create the financial
and psychological opportunities that motivate large numbers of
individuals to keep raising their capacity to work with complexity
throughout their lives.
Complexity Is Raw Material.
My own analysis from coaching entrepreneurs over the past three decades
tells me that complexity is not only something to be viewed positively,
but is the single most important resource for creating new value in all
marketplaces in the 21st century.
Of all the capabilities entrepreneurs can acquire, the ability to
simplify complexity is the most important one. They will transform all
aspects of their working and personal lives to use and increase this
“Transformation” is the sector of the global economy where the greatest
opportunities are emerging, and where the highest prices can be charged.
Very few people at present have identified this reality and the
opportunities that go with it.
With this in mind, anyone who wants to be successful in both personal
and professional life from this point forward needs to have simplifying
complexity as his or her central focus. The strategy is, first, to look
for complexity in one’s life and simplify it. Then, using the direction,
confidence, and capability that come from doing this, the next strategy
is to look for complexity in other people’s lives and transform it into
Entrepreneurs with this ability will be able to help their clientele
escape from the dependencies of the old industrial society. They will
enable clientele to free themselves from anxiety and make the crossover
to the personal and professional realities of life in this new century.
I believe this represents the greatest skill and the greatest
opportunity for entrepreneurs over the next hundred years.
© 2007 The Strategic Coach