New Trends

Running to Change

 How do you change the idea of running?  I was amazed to read in the book, Born to Run that even though all of us inherited a well-proven technique and refined gait for moving, a small group of people began to change the very idea of what I means to run in the interest of commercializing a form of transportation into a recreational sport.  We are now seeing the return to a more historic approach.  Minimalist is the new ‘old’ thing.  Low profile running shoes or even those that look like gloves for the feet have become the hot trend but in reality it is a return to what worked for our ancestors.  After a couple decades of thick cushions, an explosion of demand for physical therapy, and a marathon craze the wisdom is shifting.  I always think of my father’s theory of fashion.  In his suit closet, he kept a rack of ties that were noticeably wider than the current style that had moved towards a narrower model.  His theory was that in 15-years his style would return and it did.
Are you changing to monopolize a market or because it fits your purpose?  How does your enterprise address trends?  Do you shift your approach just because everyone else is moving in a new direction?  How do you decide when to ignore, monitor, adjust, or abandon strategy?
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Vintage) 

The Artisan

Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed column in this Sunday’s New York Times, raises an interesting perspective.  He recognized the idea of individuals considering themselves as an “artisan,” a term promoted by Lawrence Katz from Harvard University.  To get at the core of the concept, Mr. Friedman writes,

“But just doing your job in an average way- in this integrated and automated global economy- will lead to below average wages.  Sadly, average is over.  We’re in the age of ‘extra,’ and everone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work to justify being paid more than a computer, a Chinese worker or a day laborer…Their work will be more meaningful and their customers more satisfied.”

It makes me wonder if a portion of the social sector has relied on being average for too long.  With the new frontier of B Corporations about to start a land rush for enterprises that use the power of businesses to create public benefit, are we entering the sunset of the social sector.  Is the 501(c)(3) endangered to become the transistor radio of the television era?  Will the demand for greater profitability in the name of the greater good attract a whole generation enticed with start-ups and the responsiveness of a business environment?  Will having an impact without the need to take a pledge of poverty become the calling card of innovative ideas?  Are we drinking from the same well and using similar maps to predicted the best path for our campaigns?  Will the idea of invested stakeholders and the development of a profitable brands take the place of doing good without the need for glory?

I wonder if the touch-paper has been lit and we will see the smoke only after the flames have reached our mission?  The social sector is at its most vulnerable and most revered in the economic recession.  Contraction and partnerships have reduced some of the overlap but much like Wall Street financial institutions, I am not sure what lessons we have learned will inform our sector’s future.

If you are an artisan, perhaps now is the time to confirm your purpose.  As an outdoor wilderness instructor once suggested, a compass is a tool.  It can lead you to safety or off a cliff, depending on your ability to use the information.  If a new frontier is opening, it is nice to know where you are starting.