Wild Digital 2019: Mindful entrepreneurs can catalyse great change
By Tan Jee Yee July 5, 2019
- Creating zebras, not unicorns, is more sustainable
- We need to be conscious of our tools and ability to solve world’s problems
DURING his opening presentation at the Wild Digital Conference 2019, New York Times bestselling author, Entrepreneur Institute founder and GeniusU creator Roger James Hamilton (pic, above) starts with a story.
It is a story about a trip to Japan, in which he spent an entire morning waiting for a cup of tea at a bonsai garden. Japanese tea ceremonies are long, ritualistic affairs, which initially didn’t sit very well with Hamilton and his group. “We’re entrepreneurs! We wanted all things fast!” he says.
The tea maker eventually presents them with a paper that says “Ichigo ichie”, a Japanese cultural concept. The term roughly translates to “for this time only” or “once in a lifetime”, and is meant to remind people to cherish any gathering they may take part in, for any moment in life can never be repeated.
Hamilton’s story is a great way to take the audience into a networking exercise – following the story, he asks the audience to turn to the person sitting next to them to talk about who they were 30 years ago. But the story is also a reminder to entrepreneurs that speed isn’t always of the essence.
“Those who have the most successful business today, or in ten years’ time, are not the ones who were the fastest. It is the entrepreneur who takes time to slow down, to really think: ‘what does the customer really want? What does my team really care about?’” he says.
Thinking about the future
Hamilton notes that there is a need for us to be introspective because of how immensely quickly things are always changing. “You wouldn’t have been able to predict what is happening today 30 years ago,” he said, in discussing how the internet – since its inception 30 years ago – has changed into the form it is today.
“We’re seeing massive growth and we can’t predict what is happening even in the next 10 years.”
No crystal ball to the future, can ever produce a clear picture, especially with tech. But Hamilton says that while we can’t predict it, we need to think about it in the right ways.
For this, he points to the concept of Society 5.0, Japan’s blueprint for a smart society. The concept looks back to the different phases of technological growth that has happened. Society 1.0 refers to the days of hunter-gatherers, with Society 2.0 being agricultural, Society 3.0 being industrialisation and Society 4.0 being the age of information.
Society 5.0 envisions a sustainable, inclusive socio-economic system that is powered by digital technologies – big data, AI, IoT, robotics and what have you.
“The Japanese believe that we have a job to do – to grow our own consciousness, because what happens is that every time there is a massive jump forward in technology, it takes a lot of humans to jump ahead to connect with it,” he says.
“What they’re trying to say is that, it’s not the time for us to grow technology, but for us to think differently.”
Being Entrepreneur 5.0
Essentially, Hamilton believes that entrepreneurs today need to be Entrepreneur 5.0 – entrepreneurs who can help achieve Society 5.0.
Hamilton posits that the ones who can best achieve this are not governments or large companies, but “entrepreneurs who come together to make this happen,” and that digital technology will essentially provide us with the superpowers to do so.
He says that as society moves from its 4.0 status to 5.0, we can look at the challenges present and realise that we already have the tools to solve it.
In going forward, Hamilton says that rather than aiming to create unicorn companies (referring to startups that are valued at over US$1 billion), we could shift our thinking towards the creation of zebra companies, which are characterised as companies aiming to do real business and not disrupt current markets.
Zebra companies are noted as organisations that are both for-profit and for a cause. As Hamilton puts it, a unicorn has to grow at any cost, and thus goes out to feed itself with more capital; whereas zebras grow at the same place, but comfortably. “It’s not about how big you get, but how long you last,” he says.
Overcoming the conscious barrier
Hamilton quotes from Richard Buckminster Fuller, an American inventor, architect, author and futurist who coined and popularised the term “Spaceship Earth,” a worldview that encourages everyone on Earth to act as a harmonious crew working towards the greater good.
Hamilton says that, as Fuller puts it, all the big challenges in the world are distribution challenges. “When we talk about poverty, it’s not about not having enough money in the world, but about not being able to distribute it properly. When we talk about hunger, it’s not because there’s not enough food, but that it’s just not distributed effectively,” elaborates Hamilton.
Technology could’ve solved these issues, but Fuller believes that human consciousness is why they are not yet addressed. “Our consciousness is so busy looking after ourselves that we don’t realise we already have the solution,” says Hamilton.
“This is the decade of AI, of super high-performance computers and robots. All we need is the consciousness.”
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