Learning to Thrive in a Smaller World

Have you noticed? There’s a quiet revolution taking place that is transforming our world. Now this is not a violent revolution, but even so it will mark a shift in the order of things. We are moving towards a world where BIG will be supplanted by small; where corporations and institutions are being sidelined by self-organising collectives of connected individuals. Small is the Next BIG Thing. For me, 2010 is the year to look see how to succeed in a new smaller world.

There has been a growing mistrust of all that is BIG. Big business. Big government. Big economy. Big media. Big brand. Big church. The past 18 months was particularly torrid for BIG. The corporations and institutions that dominate modern society, for increasing numbers, are no longer seen as the bastions of all that is good. The doubters are no longer just those on the fringes or with leftist leanings. Capitalists, communist and fundamentalist alike are taking a stand.

In many cases we are revolutionaries and not even aware of it. Have you transferred from a monopolistic brand in favour of a new market entrant? Have you read a blog instead of an opinion piece on a broadsheet? Have you purchased online from a foreign retailer rather than head to the local mall? There are many small acts that cumulatively and over time mark a clear shift in intention and action away from BIG organisations.

However BIG is not going away. It has been deeply engrained in our cultures, societies and economies over hundreds of years. All of our structures lean towards BIG. However, not all BIG organisations will survive. The past 18 months has seen its fair share of BIG’s collapse – economies, industries and corporations. Those that do survive will be those that adapt to the new smaller landscape. Those that fail will be those unable or unwilling to play any other game than the one they’ve played thus far.

So what will the small world look like? There will be no big centre for one. Rather, there will be distributed networks of individuals, collectives and smaller organisations. It is a world that is self-organising where people develop relationships that are mutually beneficial with new ways of talking, new ways of working and new ways of having fun.

Small economies – economies that are based on networks – will become dominant and exist alongside larger more traditional geo-specific economies. Connected economies have no borders and so are more difficult to regulate and control, but then we haven’t been that great at regulating traditional economies. These new economies are fluid and in constant flux as they develop out of a need and dissolve once that need is met.

There will be big organisations of course; they are the ones that have learned how to make themselves smaller – more individual, personalised, human. There will be a recognition that power is more distributed. Individuals are now empowered to efficiently congregate with a view to taking a position or acting against any prevailing big trends. Mass market communication will not be as effective as in the past, in fact it may actually stimulate an international counter-movement of empowered and collaborating individuals (trivially, think Rage Against the Machine v X Factor).

Here in Ireland we are well positioned to succeed in this new landscape. Being small and by necessity well-connected internationally we naturally “get” what it means to act small on a global stage. Even our biggest is small, relatively speaking, and thus we have the agility to adapt and innovate quickly. The opportunity is clear for an innovation island such as ours and 2010 is the year to make good on the promises and good intentions expressed in 2009.

The Internet, ironically developed for military purposes, has been the enabler of this small revolution. The heave against BIG was already in motion in the post-War years, but as the new millenium dawns the power of the Internet to connect individuals and smaller organisations became very apparent. Today we are already living in a world that is transformed by the combination of mobile computing and ubiquitous network access.

To survive and thrive we must all learn how to harness the potential that exists in the Internet. We need to get better at using it to achieve our objectives. As one well-known Irish entrepreneur says, we’re all in the business of selling. Whether in charity, research, education, manufacturing, retail or service industries, we are all involved in transactional enterprise. To succeed in the online world we need to get better at selling and processing transactions in this smaller world.

In 2010 I intend to shift the focus of what I write here to identify and share insights and innovations from around the globe on how to sell more online. Whether it’s a shopping cart, subscription process or service application we can all learn from the best of what others do to improve how they bring others through their online transaction processes. If I can manage a post a week on this, then by the end of the year we should have about 50 insights that should help us all get better at what we do here.

The connected planet is a smaller planet and there is much greater opportunity for each individual and small organisation or business to have a greater impact. 2010, for me at least, will be dedicated to seeing how small can make it big. I don’t know where it will end up but I hope you join me on this journey.

7 thoughts on “Learning to Thrive in a Smaller World

  1. I always said big things come in small packages 🙂 Good points all but I don’t know if big media will get to grips with niche & stop serving up reality crowd pleasing LCD nonsense if advertisers are happy with the ratings.
    Happy New Year!


  2. Hi Enormous. You’re right about big media not stopping what they are doing, but I think that not achieving the Christmas number one will have hurt Simon Cowell. Perhaps enough to realise that he needs to adjust/adapt what they are doing so it doesn’t engender the same backlash in 2010. We’ll see.

    Hi Tom. Happy new year to you, and thank you very much for taking the time to leave a comment. Much appreciated. Looking forward to the year ahead.


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