Are You A Nextrepreneur?

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Are you living in the future rather than in the now? Are you constantly thinking about your next project? Well, maybe you're a Nextrepreneur. Find out!

Over the weekend on TV, I watched a repeat of a movie called NEXT. NEXT is a 2007 American science-fiction action thriller film, which stars Nicholas Cage as a man with a unique ability to see into his future. The premise, and the source of both his opportunity and challenge, is that he can only see two minutes ahead. But it also turns out that not only can he see the future; he can see how his actions can affect that future. He has an innate ability to foresee literally what comes next. Imagine being able to do that?

A view of the future

This got me thinking about Ludwig von Mises, an Austrian economist and philosopher, who said this about entrepreneurs in his seminal book Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (1966):

“What distinguishes the successful entrepreneur and promoter from other people is precisely the fact that he does not let himself be guided by what was and is, but arranges his affairs on the ground of his opinion about the future. He sees the past and the present as other people do; but he judges the future in a different way.”

The next big thing

Like the character in Next who sees things before they happen, successful entrepreneurs distinguish themselves as being visionary, strategy focused and with a unique view of the future. To them, the future is more important than the past. Hence they continuously explore their short, medium and long term horizons for products, customers, industries, and business models that do not exist today in order to exploit them ahead of competitors. Also as the future is not fixed, alternative scenarios should be considered in the identification of opportunities, highlighting of risk and guiding of strategic growth options. In this way the enterprise can shape and lead its market rather than responding to the trends or the actions of the other players in the game. Entrepreneurs envision. They proactively seek, reach, create and capture value from the ‘next big thing’.

Think Steve Jobs

A lot of people know Steve Jobs by his connection with Apple, the company he co-founded in 1976. But not about NeXT, a company focused on creating powerful computers that he founded in 1985, after he was forced out of Apple. Apple purchased NeXT in 1996. As part of the agreement, Steve Jobs, the Chairman and CEO of NeXT Software returned to Apple to begin one of the greatest comebacks in business history. The merger of NeXT software with Apple’s hardware platforms resulted in OS X and iOS, the backbone of most Apple products today. So even the word ‘next’ has a power of its own. Steve Jobs had the uncanny ability to see what lay ahead, and what would be great for customers, well before even the customers knew what they would want in future themselves!

Create the future

The successful entrepreneur takes care of today, but with a distinctive eye on the future. He has a dream. The purposeful entrepreneur engages every stakeholder in identifying and guiding the relevant action and effort towards the realisation of that dream. An emphasis on the future and a sense of urgency are some of the critical elements of an entrepreneurial culture. However, uncertainty in the business landscape often makes it difficult to predict the future. So under such unknowable and mutable circumstances, according to the late Peter Drucker, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” Entrepreneurs create. Jeff Bezos of Amazon adds:

“What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do…”

Entrepreneurs act.

If you can see the future you can serve it

In today’s fast changing business environment, competitive advantage is fleeting and time is of the essence. The next 20 minutes will soon be the equivalent of the next 20 years in terms of long term planning! So maybe two minutes forward is all we have. Maybe not. The trick is to able to understand what lies in and beyond the horizon. As entrepreneurs, we may not all have the natural foresight of NEXT’s lead character but we can learn to develop a futuristic view of our reality. We must all be ‘nextrepreneurs’ who “can see the future”, and consistently serve it through innovation.

But, our NEXT man again has an opinion:

“Here is the thing about the future, every time you look at it; it changes; because you looked at it. And that changes everything else.”

And so on it goes. The future is a formidable opponent, it has to be watched and matched constantly. It appears that the Nextrepreneur job is never done.



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