1 : one whose ideas or projects are impractical : dreamer
3 : one having unusual foresight and imagination.
Recently a blog post by businesspundit detailed 25 visionaries who created empires from virtually nothing. There’s some interesting people in there — we now know them as super mega stars — captains and kings of their respective industries, sports, occupations. Artists, scientists, financiers and engineers. Titans all. But they would probably all concur that it hasn’t all been an easy ride. We just need to look at the rollercoaster career and rumors surrounding Steve Jobs to know that. So why do they do it?
The joy of creating something? The beauty of seeing it work and people using it? The reward of improving the ways we live? The often elusive promise of riches? We could probably place people we know in these start-up tribes in every one of these motivations, but as start-up folks know, to be successful there needs to be something else. Recently we have been privileged to be working with several start-up enterprises in multiple ways. Start-ups and social media, like sustainability and social media, have something fundamental in common. Their success depends on engaging people actively in conversations about their contribution. Social media provides start-ups with a communicative velocity and intensity they would have to spend a small fortune on (and raise) using traditional forms of communication. More than that, social media has the potential to provide start-ups with an acid test that can determine what exact combination of seer and dreamer they may be as well as the consequences of this mix for their longevity.
For the last several years, our world has been a start-up world. It’s an interesting place. The people. The ideas. The visions. Why do we like start-ups when they fail so often? Why do we like start-ups when they are so poor? Why do we like start-ups when they require us to work more hours than humanly possible? Because they are visionary. People who are serial start-up folks, whether working for them or supporting them, are a special breed — part dreamer, part seer. Movers. Shakers. The Believers. A tribe. Working in and with a start-up reminds you of the fluidity of practice, the uncertainty and dynamic nature of the environment in which we all operate and force of the people involved. We forget these aspects of humanity that are embedded in all work we do when we tie ourselves to the security and stability (however illusory) of the corporate form.
Start-ups and social media remind us of the protean, organic, risky human potential of all creative effort. They’re hard to measure. Even harder to predict. We know their success only in hindsight and find it hard to pinpoint at exactly what point our efforts took on a life force of their own. They are constantly calibrating, ever changing forms seeking their groove. Davids in a world of Goliaths.
So if a start-up or social media strategy is in your plan for 2009, think about the ride, not the destination. Think about the people, the tribe you travel with. Think about the idea that holds you together, swarming as individuals in dynamic collective ease. Release yourself from preconceived notions of success or effectiveness. Don’t be afraid to change it up and move with your environment. Most importantly, remember that both are grounded in active engagements and conversations with others. Make 2009 your year to be a dreamer, seer, a visionary.