Setting your sights on the Big Picture gets the small stuff done

Some of the most exciting startups today are those that we might regard as future-gazers. But consumer habits have changed and we are increasingly sceptical today of businesses and services that offer solutions by creating a demand that was never actually there.

As much as people love their Apple devices, there is growing sentiment that it no longer produces the best in class products, with secondary or lesser known brands offering better value for money for higher quality products, and crucially, open and interoperable systems.

Apple’s trajectory is an inspiration for many, but today the world is a little different. The startups to watch today are the ones that don’t just create an appetite, nor those that fill a gap, but rather those that can foresee network effects, such as marketplaces of things like online retail, delivery, ticket exchange, homesharing and ride sharing applications, which are typical examples. And then of course there are social media platforms - the marketplaces of ideas, advice, reviews, opinions. 

What if we networked these marketplaces?

I’m often asked as an entrepreneur, what’s the secret ingredient that makes one startup stand out over another? I thought about this a long time because an investor will value a startup differently to a technologist or a marketeer. Where does this insight come from? Data, trends, movements all contribute, but the secret ingredient, if I have to distill it down to one thing, has to be collective idealism.

If all stakeholders can see the same big picture together, then everyone huddles to get the small stuff done. Collective idealism and a motivation to play your small part to deliver on it is the basis of successful collaboration. It got me thinking about collaboration being the fundamental need that needs to be addressed by businesses today. 

We often hear about businesses building a collaborative culture, but collaboration is not a result of a successful project. It is the condition for success. Today collaborative software platforms that make it easier, faster and cheaper to work in effective teams are more important than ever before. Think of Slack, Miro, Notion, and all manner of live-streaming software. But what if we stood up from our desks and looked around our homes?

All these products and gadgets and equipment and buildings around us - these physical things that make up our real lives. How do you make physical things collaboratively in a networked era? What we need is networked marketplaces for product developers, engineers, manufacturers, logistics and distribution services, software systems - all of them to be connected into ‘Market Networks’ - social networks with the tools to support collaboration around longer-term projects not just quick transactions. 

From disruptive technology to constructive technology

There is a new wave of digital transformation that is not designed to disrupt our industries, but reconstruct them. We are not in the fourth Industrial Revolution, but rather witnessing an accelerated Industrial Evolution. We don’t just need to reinvent services and streamline processes, we need to make them interoperate so we can collaborate effectively. We need to move away from purely transactional and dehumanising operations, and instead make platforms that facilitate a more human and humane approach.

The startups to watch are the ones that are open and interoperable. If the very conditions of the business operation are collaborative, only then can we venture to solve bigger social problems through business. Don’t get stuck on the small stuff, look at the bigger picture. You will get the small stuff done well, if and only if, you get everyone aligned around the bigger picture.