Dump Disrupt, Think Build

"Lego generations," © 2009  Anssi Koskinen, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

“Lego generations,” © 2009 Anssi Koskinen, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how, despite the fashion for tech businesses to talk about “disrupting” their industries, that’s never made sense to me. I’ve always felt that our role at Goldstar was to grow, support and improve our industry of live entertainment and the arts.

My ears perked up, then, when I saw the coverage that a Brookings Institute paper received about how American businesses are getting older and older, including this write-up by Ben Casselman on one of my favorite websites. Not only that, but there’s some really compelling evidence that existing companies have never had it easier. Fewer people are starting companies (even, yes, in San Francisco and Silicon Valley), and startups are failing at a higher rate than ever.

This is a problem for our country and beyond for a bunch of reasons. A generation that can’t or won’t innovate, or that can’t or won’t replace old institutions, is going to be a generation that stagnates. Nothing good, except maybe lighter traffic on the freeways, could come of that.

And with all due respect to the many people doing all kinds of exciting work in startups, I have a humble suggestion.

Change the paradigm. Disruption is fine as far as it goes, but instead of a mindset of disrupting the economy (which has largely not happened according to this data), let’s think in terms of building it.

A bit more patience, a bit more brick-by-brick (metaphorically). Grind away at a real problem, and work it down day after day. Create, don’t just shift, value. And don’t just work for the “jackpot” of an early, extremely overpriced exit. Yes, it happens, but an economy built on people trying to achieve outcomes like this is like an economy built on people hoping to win American Idol.

Dump “disrupt.” Think “build.”

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