Why Kickstarter and TEDx are the Future of Business
by Dorie Clark, Contributor 11/30/2012
Until recently, if you wanted to make an impact, the only option was to sign on with an organization. It simply wasn’t possible to raise capital, manufacture a product, or organize a mass action without institutional backing. But in the last half-decade, all that’s changed, says Nilofer Merchant, author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era, which was just named one of the Best Business Books of 2012 by Fast Company. “Today, individuals can create value and we have the platforms that allow that to happen,” she says.
Whether it’s Kickstarter and its crowdfunding model or the “independently organized and curated” events of TEDx, Merchant believes a new ethos is reshaping business. The old bromides – “the 800 lb. gorilla way, that size matters, you rule over others, and people are subservient to organizations” – no longer work. Instead, she says, “I think the 21st century is about working with others. There’s a notion that individuals can come together and create value, create scale. Each of us as an individual recognizes the value we bring: I’m not a cog in a machine; I bring creativity and vision. It’s a different way of thinking about ‘what is thriving?’ or ‘what is value’?”
The decline of large, bureaucratic organizations (and the rise of better options) means that inventors don’t have to work for 3M or IBM; they can create their own product via Quirky. Same goes for crafters, who can reach millions on Etsy, or filmmakers, who can bypass the studios in favor of Kickstarter, retaining creative control in the process. But whether or not you’re a creative professional, says Merchant, the same dynamics are beginning to penetrate the entire workforce. “Close to 50% of the U.S. workforce isn’t working at a traditional job. They’re figuring out how to have a ‘portfolio life,’ with more flexibility to be with their family and do the work they want to do.”
“At an individual level, it’s an exciting time to be alive,” she says. “If you and I no longer need to work for an organization in order to create value, we can look within ourselves and say, ‘what can I contribute?’” Suddenly we get a chance to look at our own calling without seeking permission from someone else. I think human beings have an amazing wealth of creativity within us, but we largely haven’t given ourselves permission because the economics didn’t work. For individuals, that creates boundless opportunity.”