Umair Haque, Harvard Business Publishing
What business are we in? Thanks to Ted Levitt, that's the question most boardrooms ask to kickstart some insight. Today — fuggedaboutit.
Here's the question every boardroom should be asking instead: is this the beginning of the end of business as we know it?
Yeah, I know. End-ism is over-rated. But perhaps it's worth considering a point for a second.
Perhaps talking about discussing, studying, or even thinking about business is less and less meaningful. Why? The economy is now in a state of total institutional collapse. Obama blew it. The numbers won't show it for a while, but the incentives for anyone to invest — rather than speculate — just died.
Business needs an institutional infrastructure — relatively voluntary exchange, some level of ownership, some measure of expected honesty, some kind of market efficiency, and investment with a horizon greater than nanoseconds.
None of these exist anymore. And they're not, barring a miracle, coming back.
So what we are left with are the institutions not of economic democracy, capitalism, or socialism — but of feudalism. In feudal systems, "business" doesn't exist. Patronage does.
That's exactly what's happening, for example, here.
Can we escape this death-with-a-whimper? Perhaps. Perhaps by innovating who we are — now just what we do, what we offer, or who we serve — we can build a better kind of business. I call that stuff behavioral innovation — you can check it out here.
Maybe it's all a bit less dire than it sounds. But my gut — and my analyses, usually fairly accurate — tell me the opposite.
Feel free to challenge, disagree, criticize — fire away in the comments. But do so thoughtfully (not: "business is gonna be around because it always has been, dude!").