When seeking breakout companies to back, here are four mega-trends for 2011:
1. Look for Companies That Harness the Power and Avoid the Danger of “Corporations of One.” Never before in human history has the world afforded more opportunities for talented individuals to work for themselves, by themselves. Tools of virtual collaboration – email chief among them but also Skype, Google Apps, and inexpensive “cloud” project management software like Basecamp - have eliminated most of the collaboration advantages of the traditional corporate form.
The smart, modern company understands when to marshal this force – in the form of utilizing contractors to fulfill bite and mid-sized projects, and when to resist it.
How do they resist? Well, for starters they focus vigilantly on building distinct and equity – filled brands and strong barriers around their customers.
2. And Ones That Let Virtuality Touch Them, but not Kill Them. With the approaching universal adoption of email and SMS text-enabled smart phones, businesspeople worldwide are truly on line 24/7.
Books like Jason Fried’s “Rework,” Tony Schwarz’ “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working,” John Freeman’s “The Tyranny of E-mail,” and Tim Ferris’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” address from various angles the promises and drawbacks of virtual work.
A common theme is almost universal doubt regarding email and other tools of instant communication and the “react versus respond” culture they foster.
What to do about it? Well, in 2011 look for “end of email” company movements to gain steam and social currency, and to – blasphemy of blasphemies – for articles to proliferate re social networking mainstays Facebook and Twitter having “jumped the shark.”
Companies that embrace this re-emerging “culture of the deliberate” will have the leg up where it really counts – in more thoughtful strategic positioning and consequently, more sustainable profits..
3. And Ones That Are Learning Organizations. The pressing need for organizations to innovate or perish, and of young workers equating quality work environments with ones offering intense personal and professional development almost makes the definition of a successful company as one that propels its people forward.
This company as a learning organization motif is an old one, but never before have the reductionist pressures of virtuality combined with young worker expectations made it so paramount for companies to either grow their people or see their businesses shrink.
4. And Finally, Look for Leaders that Channel Vince Lombardi. There is a fine line between an encouraging corporate culture and a permissive one. Inspired by the success of high accountability cultures like Amazon, Apple, and FedEx, smart investors are backing leaders that give BOTH pats and kicks on the backside.
In a paradoxical way, the typical, high encouragement environment in which most young people (i.e. the Millennials) were raised and educated has created in them a deep desire for structure, to be told exactly what is expected of them and the consequences for poor performance.
Leading “tough” like this is hard, draining work, but is a key and easy-to-identify quality in a company poised to breakout.
Find, back, and grow with companies that embody the above and 2011 will indeed be a VERY good year!
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