I first starting reading the Sunday Times in the early 1980s and I was fascinated by the big-company stories and headlines around the industrialists of the era. But one story that stuck with me was about shopkeepers. My father was a shopkeeper and my family own a wonderful vintage tea room today; Britain grew up as a nation of shopkeepers and although the front pages remain the same, I believe that our the future is once again small (nearly 70% of GDP in the US and 60% in the UK is made up of consumer spending).
Technology has spawned a new type of entrepreneur which allows people to work not 9-5, but 5-9 in the evening, having a side business that runs online and with an appearance that can compare with any giant out there. The little guy can compete. My point however, is that the great next idea will most likely not stem from the giant corporatioons, because these organisations are focused more on satisfying their shareholders, their green footprint and their internal systems. Most innovation, great ideas and next-gen creativity come from small groups, startups and the individual – a youngster in a corner of the south west of England or two best mates from college on the west coast of the US. We must give them a platform for dialogue and exchange – give them an opportunity to shine, because I firmly believe these youngsters, digital natives as they are, are full of ideas that may materialise into something great. The future for me is all about small countries, small organisations and individuals.
My view of the role of the big company matches something Rajesh Chandy of the Deloitte Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship referenced last week – that arguably the biggest responsibility of the CEO of these big firms is to assign time to think about the future. My personal view is that these CEOs will help all parties if they organise think-tanks, workshops and invitations to young people willing to talk ideas, and give them a chance.