Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Punk's Alive - Generation Z, your time awaits!

I believe the punk ethos prevalent in the 70s is alive and kicking in 2015.

The 70s punk spirit has spilled over into  entrepreneurship characterised by current business startups. Energised by the go get em, multi million pound results of the efforts of Jobs, Zuckeberg and co everyone is at it now, or so it seems. 

How does the new wave of entrepreneurial effort compare to the diy punk efforts of the 70s and how does it differ?

The thing that differentiated the punk mentality from the prior decades was it's 'you can do it' DiY approach. This didn't just apply to the three chord guitar riffs. It was all about a lifestyle choice, taking control. As the eloquent Inspiral Carpets front man Clint Boon expressed it in a recent BBC6 interview. "[it was about] carving out your own destiny, doing things your way. Not always following things the establishment tells you to do". Whilst this applied mainly to having a good time playing and pogoing to raucous music for most people, others made a career out of it. 

Examples of entrepreneurial spirit emerged in the independent record labels that grew and flourished. For example Indie labels like Rough Trade Records took on the giants in the 70s. Also, fashion was heavily influenced by punk at the time. Then mass marketed by those clever enough to see the opportunities. Writers, journalists, film and documentary makers had a field day. 

So what in the hell has this got to do with the startup culture that is currently taking the business world by storm? 

Many people who were around at the end of the punk era have been influential in shaping the desires and markets of post punk consumers. This has led to innovations in many walks of life. The way we consume music, books, the rise of the internet. As well as shopping, film, photography and many other areas of our lives. The spawn of the post punk mentality have shaped these developments. Not as is often assumed millennials. The odd thing is that some of the ways in which companies still do business carries offshoots from the old world before punk. The old school manners, morals and ethics of business have evolved. But not completely disappeared and the legality certainly hasn't declined.

I believe these old school practices are about to undergo a culture shock. The rise of the millennials will bring a new generation of traders who have completely shed the post punk morality. I have heard it said many times by people I've spoken to from this generation that if they can't do things one way then they will find another. Don't expect them to play by your rules. Don't even expect them to hold the door open for you as you leave. They are creating a 'no rules' business culture focused on the individual and profit. Manifestations of this are clear in those pre-millenials  [born just before 80s - 2000]  Zuckerberg, Parker, Dorsey etc. Not a day goes by without we discover they've violated some right or other. They don't seem to acknowledge they've done anything wrong. 

SO how should we, the 'punk era' businesses prepare to deal with this generation? Entrepreneurs who see these emerging behaviours as the norm?

James Burke author of Connections, legend in science communication says. [digital] “fragmentation will move people further and further away from what used to be a  common culture. [in the short term] into which everybody subscribed”. he goes on to say, “we've had a limited way of expressing ourselves in society”. “Explosion in fragmentation, in the sense of [online] tools. Becoming rapidly more available for individuals to indulge themselves”.  “People realising, because of new technology, that It doesn't matter anymore that people don't subscribe to the 5 rules that society requires of them. Be brilliant, go to a good school, go to a good university, get a well paid job etc.” With new technology you can express yourself as well as anybody else”. In a sense you no longer feel that those old fashioned virtues have a value anymore”. “Common cultural infrastructure held us together and kept us safe”

So it seems that people are deciding to ignore existing processes. If they don't like them they adapt their skills and go around them.  For example cutting a record having been in the recording studio for several months is a long distant memory. The advent of home studio’s and digital editing tools has revolutionised this. Combined with self-publishing and marketing the old way is seriously under pressure.

Maker spaces, such as Exeter Library’s FabLab:  http://fablabdevon.org/. Or Digital work hubs like http://www.atworkhubs.co.uk/ becoming the norm. I expect that home working combined with access to these will become the work pattern of the future. In many rural communities home working is revitalising the communities and their economies. A recent Guardian article features a blistering range of new ideas from the ‘startup’ do it yourself culture.  And its not just work practices that are changing, the traditional funding economy is imploding too. Present and future businesses will turn not to the banks and pound sterling. But’ to crowdfunding and bitcoin. People voting with their purses will enable these new ‘cosmopolitans’ to develop their businesses without encountering the; 'dinosaur says no' culture. 
The revolution is about to hit us! look out for generation Z!
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