Disruption and innovation erroneously used interchangeably, draw unto themselves a certain mindset. Fuelled by stories of successful companies from across the world, techpreneurship does seem like an easy path to fame, fortune, and transformation of any industry that founders and their teams focus on. Clarion calls such as ‘move fast and break things’ coined by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, roll easily of the tongue and can supercharge teams to action but on the ground, things can be vastly different, especially in emerging market contexts.
Although policy and legislation are sloths in the race to the next big thing, with entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs always looking for that loophole or highly coveted official through-pass, there remains an issue that many owners of capital do not want to address and business owners fear to highlight as risks. This is the presence of gatekeepers, rent-seekers and other shadows that exist to protect various interests that see commercial benefit from the many broken processes that plague sectors where opportunities abound to build healthy sustainable businesses.
These entrenched pseudo-institutions can have roots going back decades with factions having broken off to accommodate differing ideologies and profit centres as happens when any collective grows to a certain size and influence, or to support the exploitation of a separate opportunity. It may be near impossible to deal with these hydra’s that just like the creature from Greek mythology, when one head is cut off in any sort of purge or systems improvement, two more grow in its place. This seems more pronounced in instances where the transformation has the potential of creating a perceived centre of political power, either through aggregating and empowering persons or providing a home for ready capital from ‘small-time’ investors.
The strategy, therefore, calls for a smarter path towards the realisation of any disruption agenda. Lobbying is a tedious process best handled under the umbrella of a collective organisation that requires a committed membership. When blazing the trail, there are often just a handful of players whose focus is nowhere near that required of a vibrant organisation, each trying to figure out market fit. What therefore remains is the Trojan horse approach, calling for a slightly longer-term play, tempered by the ‘unappealing’ actions of compliance and self-regulation.
Sometimes it is not about a show of might and speed to market, but tact in understanding the formations of these debilitating pseudo-institutions and driving the shift from the inside unencumbered.