Sunday, February 4, 2007

Changing workplace demographics

A recent study by Intuit and Institute of the Future highlights three dramatic trends affecting the evolution of entrepreneurialism over the next ten years:

1. People from the edges of middle age (teenagers, "mompreneurs," non-retiring Baby Boomers, immigrants) will increasingly start new businesses in the US and elsewhere. As in so many other instances, the stereotype of entrepreneurship in the US as a white male dominated field is evaporating.

2. The Internet's "long tail" will enable many peole to launch new businesses reaching specialized international niche markets that, previously, would never have been served because there was no mechanism to connect providers of goods and services with prospective users. Instead of a thousand flowers blooming, there will be millions!

3. Focused entrepreneurial education will add to (and sometimes replace) the learnings that come from the school of hard knocks. High schools, art schools, vocational schools, language training schools, and so on may all start to add entrepreneurial education components to their curriculum. Students who want to start their own business will learn about topics like accounting, marketing, logistics administration systematically, rather having the reactive experience so many of us entrepreneurs have when we realize that we should have understood some general business topic...yesterday!

These trends are important to us personally at Art of the Future because we are an small entrepreneurial service shop that currently works with many different types of people and eagerly looks forward to doing a lot more of that.

And, of course, these developments are significant at a larger strategic level: A multiplicity of new employment options are opening up. This means more competition for key talent, more diversity in lifestyles and workplace culture, more social and economic complexity, and more freedom of choice.

Proponents of laissez-faire capitalism herald the proliferation of entrepreneurialism as a demonstration of human capability, especially when it is unfettered by government bureaucracy and regulation. It is not clear to us what sort of net gains are actually being achieved in small business employment, however. Keeping the doors open is very hard to do for most entrepreneurs. Restaurants are the most frequently started small business, and most of them don't make it, for example. Plus, it could be argued that many small businesses add little to the overall dynamism of the American economy, e.g., franchise operations that are ancillary to the internal combustion engine. So, the jury is still out on this aspect of the goodness of entrepreneurialism.

But, smart city and town planners can take advantage of these emerging trends to make sure that they attract and hold the sort of small businesses that can revitalize communities and/or further secure their position as attractors to innovative businesses. Instituting truly universal WiFi access within the boundaries of a particular community seems like a very logical and easy first step in this direction, for example. Make it easy for young people, mompreneurs, and self-motivated people without much income to work anywhere. Rehab unused industrial facilities and turn them into low rent creative bee hives driven by a set of tenants integrated by some form of common interest and/or market. Be the first in your state to offer entrepreneurial education at the high school level! Have the media celebrate local entrepreneurial firms that crack into an international market.

These are just a few of the strategies that towns, cities and regions can use to align the entrepreneurial energy of their citizens with the desire to put themselves on the map as a thriving, destination community.

Click here to see the original Intuit/Institute of the future article.

1 comment:

Art of the Future said...

Oops! Forgot to reference the link to the Intuit/Institute of the Future report: http://www.intuit.com/futureofsmallbusiness