The Booming Business of Disruption

Disclaimer – For those that know me, I am not into partisan agendas, political or otherwise.  The below is not meant to give any answers, simply ponder a few questions. For those of you into that kind of thing, read on…

Ask someone if they know who Mark Zuckerberg is, you will likely get a yes.  One of the most famous and perhaps powerful men in the world needs little introduction.  His signature platform now serves 2 billion active users worldwide, positioning him as one of the most unique and informed aggregators of human sentiment the world has ever known.

For all those accomplishments, perhaps Zuckerberg’s most unique role yet may be the one he has assumed over the last few months – a respected voice for Universal Basic Income.   Joined by a small but growing list of the world’s most successful business people, a list that now includes Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Sam Altman, the president of venture capital firm Y Combinator, the concept of Universal Basic Income seems to be gaining steam.  If you’re not familiar with the idea, in the simplest terms it would mean everyone in the country (perhaps world) gets a paycheck, whether they have a job or not.

While the discussion around Universal Basic Income is legitimate, it might be time to have a more honest discussion about why it is needed at all.  According to Zuckerberg, “we should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”  Universal Basic Wage is being labeled as a mechanism to “unlock potential in society by giving everyone a safety net.”  While I respect the genius of the man, I would have to question his premise that a meager sum that barely qualifies as monthly rent is going to unlock any great societal awakening.

Which brings me to a Facebook name you may not have heard of, Antonio Garcia Martinez.  A former Facebook Project Manager that left Silicon Valley with this dire prediction, “Within 30 years, half of humanity won’t have a job. You don’t realize it but we’re in a race between technology and politics, and technologists are winning. They’re way ahead. They will destroy jobs and disrupt economies before we even react to them and we really should be thinking about that.”


Photo by Gnsin ~ Actroid-DER, developed by KOKORO Inc for customer service, appeared in the 2005 Expo Aichi Japan. The robot responds to commands in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English.

While Mr. Martinez may be on the five-alarm side of technology advancement, his warnings seem to coincide with the leading technology minds suddenly being concerned about everyone’s paycheck.  For years we have been told that technology will bring a better and brighter tomorrow.  That does not seem to reconcile very well with the need for supplemental basic income.

Perhaps another kind of tomorrow is on their mind – Venezuela.  With the collapse of oil prices during the 1980s, the Venezuelan economy was crippled. As the government started to devalue the currency in February 1983 to face its financial obligations, Venezuelans’ real standards of living fell dramatically. Failed economic policies and increasing corruption in government led to rising poverty and crime, worsening social indicators, and increased political instability.  The Country remains to this day a roiled cloud of economic, social and political unrest. In other words, it’s a case study on what happens when people go without.

The reasons for the current dire state of Venezuela are too numerous to count here, but one social lesson is without dispute, the rapid deceleration of jobs, money, and access to basic human needs will lead to one ugly eventuality – societal unrest on a massive scale.  That may be the real reason for the sudden interests in Universal Basic Wage by the men best equipped to peer ahead of the technological horizon.  The constant push to innovate may be about to make its biggest push yet, displacing the world’s middle-class right out of employment.

If the dire warnings are right, and jobs truly will be eliminated on a massive scale due to technological advances, it begs a very interesting question.  Has Capitalism finally run head-long into a market condition it cannot overcome – innovation?  For the economies sake, Zuckerberg’s reasons for Universal Basic Wage would be far more pleasant than those of Mr. Martinez.

The Chamber Cycle of Smallness

Deep in a conversation about the challenges, frustrations and travails of running a small chamber, a colleague issued this beleaguered statement to me:

“I feel like we are stuck in a cycle of smallness”.

Many chambers find themselves there today.  As the world of communication and marketing continues to peel back it’s infinite layers of possibility, chamber execs often find themselves on the edge of a thrilling and dangerous blade.  On one edge, there are so many tools and vehicles they want to grab hold of knowing they could be used to help their members.  On the other edge, the reality of insufficient funds and insufficient time holds them back.

The conversation generally goes like this… “I know if I could do X it would bring more benefits to my chamber and ultimately more revenue, but I don’t have enough time/staff/finances to do it.”  And there it is in one sentence, the round loop of “smallness”.  Facing this reality a lot of execs find themselves with two discouraging (for many) options, accept who you are, or go somewhere else.

The truth is, the cycle is more perceived than reality.  I know, this is where the reader is curling their fingers and steaming in their mind “but, but, but he doesn’t understand my situation”.  It’s not that I don’t acknowledge the problem, I don’t accept the traditional definition of organization.


The truth is, our boundaries are only as small as we choose to define them.  Quick example, and it is crazy as a bat to make my point, but what if your chamber merged tomorrow with your nearest professional sports team.  That’s crazy!  Yes it is, but stay with me.  What would your new resources be?  What would it be like having access to their consumer database?  Their marketing resources?  Their regional exposure?  Would it give you access to new chamber members you never dreamed of?

Sometimes the most efficient way out of a bad cycle is to dramatically change your definition of organization.  Pick three organizations in your area you could partner with.  How would it change your organization?  How would it change theirs?

Take a mental walk, see where it leads…