The World We Live In, Just As It Is
Many entrepreneurs advocate globalisation, yet consumers are focused on nationalism and protectionism. Many are vocal supporters of entrepreneurs and private enterprise, yet the recent rise of social equality movements demonstrates that masses become unhappy when capitalism makes others become too rich. As individuals, we believe in democracy and the right of free speech, yet we easily get appalled when others tell it like it is.
What people say is not what they actually believe; what many proclaim to hold dear, it actually isn’t; what is considered to be tolerant behaviour is, in fact, often xenophobic.
The corporate and political world – or at least a large part of either – is operating in mirror-clad rooms; perception is reality and image building, persuasion, push, assertion, and conviction are today’s trading currency. Apart from the political disgrace demonstrated by both Brexit and the 2016 US Presidential elections, there is a deeper lesson that business leaders, academics, investors and consumers alike need to stoop down to and recognise: the return of manipulation, propaganda and disinformation as intrinsically accepted rules of public engagement.
While quantitative evidence is always needed and necessary to ensure the validity of any claims, the qualitative evidence is the one that, more often than not, guides the quantitative aspects. Politics and politicians – both in the UK and the US – have lost the common people’s trust; experts, as clearly stated by many politicians and members of the public during the Covid19 pandemic, should not be trusted; pollsters’ data, though few may know this, is also highly unreliable. Then it is only right that one should ask oneself ‘what can be trusted?’ How does one validate one’s assumptions?
Matters may sound more difficult than they actually are – for those entrepreneurs who focus on B2C activities, little has changed since consumer engagement is not changing livelihoods nor does it affect the future generations. For those business people who mainly operate in the B2B space, the transactional relationships can still be carried on, more or less, as before: in the business world, as long as one’s services and products are provided at a competitive price, with attractive payment terms and delivery/maintenance conditions, then what worked in the past should be a pretty safe bet that it will also work in the near future.
The fundamental shift comes for those operating in the B2G space since geopolitical turmoil creates significant ripples across the global economies. Politicians are, first and foremost, concerned with keeping their seats and being re-elected – the countries where there is a significant anti-immigration and anti-globalisation movement (a.k.a. nationalist or far-right) are going to see an increase in the anti-democratic rhetoric. To maintain their positions in power, the political parties and their leaders will have to ‘sing the song’ the masses like to hear.
Today, more than ever, what many used to know about conventional diplomacy, government protocol and written/unwritten rules of official conduct is becoming very confusing. Etiquette seems to have completely disappeared and the pump and honour accompanying various bi-/multi-lateral government deals looks hilarious. To fall into the trap of perception would be unadvisable: today many are witnessing a change of tone, not of essence – after all, net-zero and SDG goals, corroborated with ESG practices are only looking for a an excuse not to happen or, sadly, have their kick-off delayed.
Winning is imperative in politics and the main driver for the politicians – it is not about what is best for one person or the other – to win, they need to stand out; how can they stand out? By smiling nicely and being polite? By playing with dogs and kissing babies? Certainly not since everyone does that – if Brexit and the American Presidential elections of 2016 have demonstrated anything, it is that the wide society’s acceptance of others is not as straightforward and ‘clean’ as one might thought it was.
The pro-Brexit and pro-Trump votes went to those political platforms, slogans and individuals who were thought to make a difference, someone different, someone who has the courage to be forthright, let it out, care less about repercussions or about losing his/her job, someone who is not afraid to be rude, xenophobic, racist or discriminatory.
The world we live in, just as it is, is no longer a happy place, nor a place with clearly defined demarcation lines, be they territorial or conceptual: it is a place where anything can happen. And with limitless possibilities comes unlimited resourcefulness – it is a collective and individual burden on us all to strive to create a world that allows for innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration in all its forms.
There is a reason why wealth creation in all its forms – starting with profit, jobs creation and wider economic development – can seldom be hampered by political tensions and uncertainties. One could argue that especially in times of turmoil the human entrepreneurial spirit shines through given the fact that humanity, as a species, is intrinsically wired to find alternative or innovative solutions to traditional problems. This is particularly relevant with regard to the power investors – both private and institutional – have to drive a positive change that benefits not just the conventional balance sheets but, the overall common good.