Recently I read “It’s time to build” blog post by Marc Andreessen. The story is about how we, as humanity, can cope with the post-pandemic world. What should we change, and how? And, like many things Marc publishes, this story is quite inspiring. I decided to take a closer look at the current situation and come up with pretty interesting findings that I’d like to share.
You probably have heard about the S-Curve of Innovation (or any similar containing S-curve). It is a simple concept of how things like innovations, businesses, or companies start, grow, and mature. I applied the S-Curve to the current world situation and got a new perspective. Let’s take a close look.
The world is developing in cycles. This isn’t anything new. We all have heard about economic cycles. The S-Curve can correctly describe it. And not only from an economic perspective but in general. Here is one of the S-curve descriptions
The S-Curve highlights the fact of how an industry, product, or business model evolves over time.
Here is a simple illustration.
Simple illustration of the S-Curve generic conceptS-Curve is the way how we grow businesses, the way how we innovate, how we build and develop economies (even if the majority don’t see it that way). And it consists of 4 stages.
- Ideation — initial stage, when we create something new, test new ideas and approaches, trying to understand what is working and what is not. The stage where we experiment and challenge the status quo.
- Growth — the second stage where we try to grow new ideas into something bigger. We were getting feedback from early adopters, pivoting, making changes, trying to find sustainable growth.
- Scale — the third stage of the cycle. Here we take ideas that survived the growth stage and trying to implement them on the scale. We design systems and processes, ensuring scalability.
- Maturity — the final stage of the cycle. Having new ideas implemented at a scale, we focus on people, developing cultures, design quality relationships, and building balance within the systems.
Each stage has its purpose. Ideate → Grow → Scale → Mature. You can’t skip a stage; you can only shorten a timeframe spent on each stage. But how is it relevant to the current situation?The thing is that our current world is at the final stage of this cycle. The world reached maturity and can’t keep growing without significant changes. It’s time to build.
Looking back into the past
But let’s apply S-Curve Patter to our past, shall we?
- We entered the first stage (Ideation) of the current cycle in the 1980s when the Internet and Personal computer got mass adoption. This was the first stage of the current cycle. We were generating new ideas, creating original things, doing crazy stuff, and playing around with new things. We were creating new normals.
- We entered the second stage (Growth) in the 2000s when the dot com bubble burst. It ended the age of creativity. We understood that just creating new things isn’t enough; we need growth. Surviving businesses started to look for sustainable business models, ways to grow their businesses. VC investments began to boom.
- The financial crisis of 2008 pushed us into the third stage (Scale). The world realized that not everything about the money. To sustain growth, we need to have transparency. We need to design systems and processes to keep us scaling. Things changed a lot.
- I believe we entered into the fourth and the final stage (Maturity) in 2014. Unbelievable stuff happened. Crimea got annexed, Ukraine got into the war (not to mention Brazilia, Venezuela, and China). The world shifted again. We started to value humanity, relationships, culture, inclusion, etc.
Here is the S-Curve applied to our past events.
S-Curve applied to the past 40 years.Now it is the COVID pandemic and the threat of another economic crisis. And let’s be honest, nothing changed from the first stage of the current cycle. I mean, we did a lot, but no significant shift happened. We were building on top of ideas originating in the 1980s.By this point, you probably realize that it isn’t possible anymore.
Maybe COVID is a “good” thing?
I want to be clear. Death toll reaching 300k (probably surpassed this number when you read) around the world isn’t anything good. But is it the worst-case scenario we might expect? A lot of epidemiologists and risk-analytics were trying to warn us that the global pandemic might be the next most significant threat. We weren’t listening.Anyway, cycles are inevitable. And I think the current way of jumping into a new cycle is a mild one (if you compare it to a global armed conflict scenario). Today it is COVID; next time, it will be something else. The world will keep spinning; we will continue building new things and designing new ways of how to cope with challenges.
The three scenarios we have
So, where do we go from here? We can’t go back to the way before COVID; it won’t work; we all understand it. If you imagine the world (or a country) as a business, then there are just three ways:
- Face decade long recession (don’t change anything). The world will just go back to the way things were 10–15 years ago. Recession will last as long as we think we can do things in the old ways. I don’t believe this is viable in the current situation.
- Change ownership (change from the top). In the case of a business, it means selling the company. I don’t mean selling the world, but changing management is our second option. I don’t believe in this either. Management (governments and elites) are hard to change.
- Change ourselves (change from the bottom). Every single one of us should challenge the status quo to enter a new cycle. Management (owners) will adapt. We must rethink everything we do and redesign the ways we do it. It starts with super simple things as your daily routine 🙂
Let me be clear here; there are no other options. Options above can’t be combined in some proportions. It is an “either-or” situation.
A value-driven approach to change
If we want to change the world, we need to understand a vector to follow. My favorite S-Curve Pattern has a good model for this as well. Each stage of the S-Curve cycle has its values. Values are like spotlights showing us where to focus our efforts on each stage to keep our progress. Stage values simplified:
- Creativity. Innovation, uniqueness, interest, novelty, humanity.
- Competition. Victory, stamina, reputation, persistence, durability.
- Performance. Benefit, practicality, result, expertise, profit.
- Culture. Relationship, care, sustainability, comfort, humanism.
You probably noticed, that stage 4 values are describing before-COVID (2014–2020) world pretty precise. To initiate the change, we should focus on the values of the first stage. Creativity, new ideas, new opportunities. Challenge all the things around us, do (at least try) everything in a unique way, focus on interesting things and challenges.
Time to create
All the major aspects of our life must and will change. The world is just a couple of months into the pandemic, but we already see massive changes in how we work, learn, communicate, travel, and shop. And these changes aren’t some kind of evolution we expected. It looks more and more like a revolution. We realize that the old way of doing things IS NOT HOW IT HAS TO BE, but rather HOW WE USED IT TO BE.The world needs new ideas, Not sustaining the old ones. We must do things in different ways without looking back and trying to adapt or repair what is broken. It is a perfect time to create. Create new products, new habits, new relationships, new cultures, new governance models, new funding approaches, new ways of thinking.Time to create new normals. And the world is our canvas.