ERIC DE GROOT
All my life I have dared many challenges in business and personal life. Have survived and challenged many transformations and crises. Being a child born out of the baby boom generation I survived the individualism from the 80s, several oil crises, the punk/new wave trend in music, the dotcom bubble from 2001 and the year that bankers lost their minds and true sense of why in society and created a financial disaster that almost got us into a great depression, of the likes in the 30s of the last century. And some people like Harari tell us that we as humans are facing the next great transformation. That as a consequence of technology we as humans are becoming more or less obsolete and or the major part will be replaced by smart algorithms? So far for overrated intuition.
Besides the major business and society hurdles, I also had my fair share of personal crises. At the beginning of my working career, I decided to leave a good position and went on what they now call a sabbatical leave. At that time in the 80s they just called it stupid. I also dared to step out of several relationships, despite the fact that they gave me an assumed sense of shelter and safety and was afraid of losing the known. Sounds familiar? Just DARE.
As I get older, I get more comfortable with knowing that I don’t have the answers for everything. I guess you could call it experience. At the same time, I get more joy from experiencing the fact that everything has an order. There are patterns. Ways of looking at reality which help it make sense. At the same time, I also enjoy trying to disrupt my own thinking patterns; to break the mold before a new one can be formed. My travels through India, meeting people in a foreign culture, unable to relate to situations yet being able to relate to people have been a great catalyst in that. As humans, we are blessed with an instinct to survive. And survival requires us to rethink and reframe our surroundings. We are rarely in real danger and even less face extinction personally. However, the companies we run are odds. They do face the risk of extinction. If we don’t constantly rethink, reframe and rebuild our companies, they will not be here any longer if we fast forward the calendar 10 years ahead.
My ambition is not to be a modern-day archeologist, dusting off extinct companies and trying to revive them. I want to work with companies and leaders who dare to face the reality of not knowing exactly where the future of their business lies. Who are willing to build on their strengths and no when a strength has become a liability. I guess you could call them DARING leaders.
It seems funny to me that a lot of people nowadays believe they are in the midst of a digital transformation. Being a kid of the 90s, I have always been surrounded by new technology, I simply never could possibly realize that there was a time without computers (was there?). Imagine how technology is always around in the childhood of millennials, do you think they believe they are living in times of digital transformation?
In my opinion, it is not the technology that is so transformative, what drives the transformation is the growing discrepancy between older and younger generations in the skills and competencies needed to understand and deploy new technology. Why are people in their mid-fifties still pretending they know more about leading a tech company than a digital native twenty-something? DARE to make room for digital leadership of younger generations in your company! DARE to learn lots and lots of new things from someone much younger than you. Because if you do not, you are ignorant, and you will not survive the next decade.
It is just so obvious: the generation that installed DOOM on a calculator, built their own websites when they were barely teenagers, hacked into the school’s servers to change the grades, they should be the new leaders in the digital age. They are just smarter and better with new tech, because it always has been around them, ever since they were born. And when their hairs start to turn grey, there will be a newer generation raised in an age of decentralized networks, Internet of Anything, and any new emerging technology not yet conceived. True leadership is making room for a younger generation and giving them, even in time of great uncertainty, full mandate to create new value with existing and new tech.
When innovating, DARE to step aside sometimes