The Future's Future

By Rob Spiegel

You want to create a business rooted in creativity. In the past, creative people have shunned business, since systematic control was essential to maintain profitability. Times are changing - Click Here for insight into business of the future!

Imagine yourself 20 years old. About as far back as you can remember, you've had Internet access and you've lived in an economic expansion. The only war you've experienced fought on television, The Gulf War, Kosovo. You're two years into college and you're trying to decide what major to pursue. You like the arts, especially computer graphics, but you're not crazy about the idea of reporting to a middle manager in a corporation. You've considering taking in internship at a Web design company, but that would be a temporary move. You really want to create an Internet startup, a company that can give creative people like yourself an opportunity to work together and develop new Web-based products and services. Ultimately, you don't want to develop great Web business applications.

You want to create a business rooted in creativity. In your grandparent's day, the main business rule was: big beats small. In your parents' day it evolved to: fast beast small. But in your day, the mantra has become: creative beats static. It doesn't matter how fast you move if you're not continually recreating your products and services to meet your customers' needs. Your generation is quickly learning that speed doesn't matter if you're speeding up the wrong thing. In fact, a high velocity of change in a company can a mask a poorly considered direction, right up to the moment of deadly impact.


You want to work in a squishy environment, like the Web firm in San Francisco where you serve as an intern. The space began life as an edgy restaurant. When the Web group moved in, they kept much of the layout intact, with its open workspaces, high balcony and a bar in the center of the large open floor area. The bar remains stocked with beer that goes with the pizza that's free for all of the designers and engineers who work through the night and go home for a few hours sleep at dawn.

Is this the Paris of Hemingway? Is it the North Beach of Kerouac and Ginsberg? Now, instead of writing novels and poetry, these agents of change are creating businesses.

You want to work where business applications can be designed with all of the intensity and diagonal thinking of a design team. You want to live with a creative team day and night, pouring over ideas, examining every chunk of new technology for concepts, peeking into the corners of dozens of corporations looking for an opportunity to make a creative improvement. Is there a market for Internet squish-training, delivered through video format? Do companies need multimedia interactive network templates to create weekly vision meetings that bring hundreds of home workers into the buzz?

What do consumers need to improve their lives? What do corporations need to squeeze even greater efficiencies out of their supply chains? Is there a need for culturally specific recruitment packages so companies can hire armies of engineers in India? Maybe you could create an idea lab that develops business concepts for software and middleware companies based on emerging technology.

Whatever your choose, your life will be different from your parents, powerfully different. Over the course of your life, the boundaries between countries will start to blur as vertical markets and niche interests become more important than geography. Creativity is already growing in importance as a prized quality in a business, especially conceptual creativity as a flood of Net-based applications crave form. Borders between corporations are going fuzzy as affiliations, competition, collaboration and seamless integration bring companies into shared space.

In the 1800s, the major creative forces was the novel. In the 1900s, photography, film and rock music took center-stage, absorbing the greatest artistic talent from each generation. In the 2000s, it may be business that draws on each generation's creativity. In the past, creative people have shunned business, since systematic control was essential to profitability. Control is no longer the byword of business. Innovation is. In your future, free spirits may find that business development is the ultimate canvass for creatively altering the world.

Rob Spiegel is the author of Net Strategy (Dearborn) and The Shoestring Entrepreneur’s Guide to Internet Start-ups (St. Martin's Press). You can reach Rob at

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