What does the season finale of Game of Thrones have in common with UK politics and running a business? More than one can imagine as it turns out.
As I was scrolling down my twitter feed for the latest updates on Brexit on that famous, historical Thursday in June, every other tweet referred to this now iconic TV-series and drew parallels between the twists and turns of the fictional characters and the real ones in Westminster. So much so that I had to give in and finally binge-watch the show myself, to see what all the fuss was about. I have to admit, it took about 6 seasons before I finally “got it” but then it hit me. I could see why it captured people’s imagination, and how it translated into today´s real time drama that was played out right in front of our eyes on national television and in the media.
The parallels between the fictional world and real time events got enhanced when Harry Potter-author JK Rowling tweeted “I don´t think I´ve ever wanted magic more” and was cited in media all over the world. Little did it help build trust when it was reported in the media that people had googled “What does it mean to leave the EU” and “What´s EU” AFTER the vote had been cast on Thursday.
In the first days and weeks after the referendum UK was in a freefall. With the sterling plunging to a 30+ year low, a prime minister on his way out with no-one to replace him and EU ministers pressing the UK to activate Article 50 with immediate effect, it wasn´t long before many people started panicking about everything from house prices, jobs, border controls and even the destiny of Larry the Cat in no 10 (who by the way has his own twitter account, where it now has been confirmed that the new PM Theresa May will keep him in in the house hold - phew, what a relief. At least some certainty in these unstable times…!).
Joking aside, what the show reminds us of is that governments might come and go, but the hunger for power stays the same, trade of services and goods will continue one way or the other and there will always be someone who thrives in times of crisis. You´ve got villains and heroes, but more often than not it´s not black or white. The people who survive in periods of great change are those who can adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and solve the problems of the market place and/or the people they want to serve.
Crisis also means opportunity. It all depends on how we choose to react to the new situation at hand and what kind of future we want to create for ourselves. The result of the referendum means that we most likely will enter a period of economic uncertainty BUT it is also true that tough times are a perfect breeding ground for start-ups and innovative companies who will continue to disrupt their markets, just like before.
Companies might have to scale down due to potential financial loss which opens up new opportunities for entrepreneurs to offer them what they want more efficiently or cheaply that before. Former employees might reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs, and there will be new ways of doing business that hasn´t existed until now.
With globalisation, instant translation tools, virtual reality and the latest technical hypes such as this summer´s Pokémon-phenomenon people are able to instantly connect with each other 24/7 and take their learnings to a new level. Today you can literally have a new business up and running within minutes, without a website or a product of your own. Just look at Uber, the world’s largest taxi company which owns no vehicles, Airbnb, the largest accommodation provider that doesn’t own any real estate, or Alibaba, the most valuable retailer which has no inventory. All great examples of new, creative ways of doing business.
Futurist and social entrepreneur Roger James Hamilton, founder of Entrepreneurs Institute, compares the current situation in the UK to a similar referendum 50 years ago, where Singapore citizens voted to leave British colonial rule and join the new Federation of Malaysia. Following race riots that ran out of control, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia and was left as an island to fend for itself. At the time when sceptics saw a bleak future for Singapore, their leader Lee Kuan Yew realised Singapore had no one to depend on but themselves and decided to reinvent Singapore by focusing the newly independent island on becoming a world leading nation. He looked beyond their relationship with the British Empire and Malaysia to the rest of the world; looking beyond the present to 50 years in the future. Suddenly, what looked like a crisis was turned into an opportunity, with Singapore being the first nation to be deliberately designed for the 21st Century.
Roger James Hamilton
50 years after that separation and new focus, Singapore is now being recognised globally as the the No.1 country with the best business environment, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. It is the No.1 city with the best investment potential, according to BERI, the 2nd most competitive country in the world, according to the World Economic Forum, the 2nd most technologically advanced country, according to the WEF Global Information Technology Report and the 3rd richest country in the world, according to Forbes. It also has one of the lowest levels of poverty and one of the highest density of millionaires in the world.
Singapore has achieved all of this 50 years after a separation that was seen at the time as a major crisis from which it might never recover. It was achieved by focusing at future potential over existing partnerships and by focusing at the advantage of speed over scale. They set their own rules based on where the world was going instead of where the world was.
Of course, Hamilton adds, there are huge differences between the UK and Singapore. But there’s also huge difference in the times we now live in. With the growing waves of technological and economic change, it’s the most nimble nation that will win in the next 50 years.
And while it will be the ones that can move rapidly with the times that will win, it will be the ones tied down in regulation and bureaucracy that will be left behind. Change won’t come waiting for the right politician. It’ll come from the right entrepreneurs stepping up and helping to drive private/public partnerships.
Which path the UK takes is up to its citizens. But to choose to be a world leading nation of the new tomorrow is as valid a path as any. In the midst of the current chaos and division, there is now an incredible opportunity for the UK to unite, put the past behind it, and reinvent itself for the future. And just as other countries can reinvent themselves, against all odds, so can the UK.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at what’s around the corner. The last few months alone have seen the launch of Oculus Rift, Microsoft Hololens and Live Video on Facebook to mention but a few of the major breakthroughs we’ve witnessed recently. We haven’t even talked about the rise of robots, advanced bionics, space travel or 3D printing of self sustainable, green houses and what impact that will have on mankind (both on earth and in space). Many futurists believe that in the years to come we will see our real and virtual world become seamlessly linked. You will literally wake up in the morning not knowing if you are in a VR environment or in the real world.
What we also see now is the rise of companies where each customer is given a personalised pathway, based on their personal experiences and consumer habits. So far online platforms such as Amazon and Facebook have been using so called “backward facing A.I” (where you get suggestions based on your previous searches) but new solutions are starting to offer “forward facing A.I” instead (where intuitive platforms project future pathways based on your aspirations and connect you up with like-minded people globally). A great example of the latter is GeniusU.com and Buy1Give1, a charity which works both as a dynamic and vibrant, community-led network and a charitable organisation in one.
It is estimated that entrepreneurs will grow in numbers from one million people in the year 2000 to more than a billion people in 2020. Your network is your net worth, so now is a great time to invest in building long lasting relationships, strategic alliances and partnerships. People buy from people they know, like and trust - especially in periods of uncertainty - and also look for direction in this age of information overload, so it is a safe bet to say that those who can provide a bespoke map and compass for their customers are the ones who are more likely to succeed in the future. That, and by starting with your customer, and not the product, you are able to stay with them for long periods of time and chop and change your products and services to fi t their needs instead of the other way around. We are also seeing the exponential growth of large online communities where people from all over the world are able to co-create and collaborate in real time to make a big impact globally.
What problems do you want to solve and do you know where to go to find like-minded people? Figure that out, and you might find that your post-Brexit business will become more profitable, and more successful than ever before. Winter might be coming - and with it a new leadership on the iron throne - but if and when it does, you will be well equipped to survive the storms and last through to the spring!
Sofie Haag is the Founder and MD of From Sweden Productions, a London-based productions company specialised in production management and promotions of concerts, productions, festivals and events with a Swedish connection.
Photo credit: Jazzysatindoll/Flickr