It’s funny, because what we want is simple—more time, more things done our way, and more money (to name a few).
The beginning of business can be simple. It springs out of our dreams, desires and experience. But the act of execution—the ongoing work of business—can become complex. Why? Because getting things done our way leads to niche and custom products like not just business tools, but small business tools. And not just small business tools, but small business tools for accountants or writers or plumbers, etc. We can niche in all kinds of directions.
Even though niche solutions may be complex for the person that develops them, and complex for us while we are shopping all the options, once we find exactly what we need (and want), niche solutions tend to simplify our lives.
In The End of the “Mass” Era, John Mariotti brings up a point that makes me think about the cost of variety and innovation (and despite the cost, I still want it). He says,
“Here’s the news flash, which is not such big news by now: The era of “mass” is over…“What’s “in”? Customization, fragmentation, segmentation, niches and global aggregation. So is high complexity and too many choices. Why? Because they are possible — thanks to technology.”
Yes, customized solutions may add complexity, but I find myself pursuing them (as a buyer) and creating them (as a business owner), because for the end user they make business and life easier. Focusing solutions is what small business owners do—we specialize, some of us localize, we develop expertise in a certain area.
Anita Campbell highlights a study by GE in a recent article titled Small Businesses to Play a Bigger Role in Innovation. She says, “Executives in the study consistently cited innovation as a strong driver of a prosperous economy.” We see innovation as new methods, solutions and ideas. At the Latin root, to innovate also means to renew.
In other words, before the “Mass” Era that Mariotti mentions, we niched—we bought bread from the baker, horses from the farmer, fabric from the local store. It all makes me think that in some of our innovation, we will renew and restore the ways we did things before, but with a modern twist.
Simplicity is making a comeback. In fact, Anita Campbell mentioned,
“More than three-fourths of those surveyed (77 percent) said the greatest innovations of this century will be those that help address human needs, such as improving the quality of health or enhancing energy security — not those that simply create the most profit.”
According to GE’s survey, business is moving back toward people—that’s what small business has always been about. Yes, we continue to innovate. Yes, it increases complexity in the beginning—while we learn how to use the new tools. But if it brings simplicity to our customer, then in the end, innovation is our business.