Declinism Stymie-ism

"Declinism takes many forms – but let’s start with the most pernicious: failing to recognise what we’re great at doing."

The sign-off from a London broadsheet tech columnist recently about Britain's world leading space capabilities. Ones which the populace, including policy makers, seem oblivious too. Stated as a crying shame, as the skills involved are "in demand internationally". With all the associated employment, economic and personal benefits this allows to flourish.

There is, it appears, a space revolution occurring.

And not just from the ultra-billionaires diverting their fortunes to it.

"With the first generations of satellites, the cost of parking was around $1m per kilogram of payload. A decade ago it was $35,000. Now it’s below $5,000. The industry has been revolutionised."

This is leading to the pursuit of manufacturing amazing and precious items that we struggle to on Earth in the pristine vacuum, zero-gravity environment available when orbiting miles above. One protagonist, Joshua Western, claims;

“The materials we will produce are the saffron of the semiconductor world – you only need a small amount to have a huge impact.”

The author worries Brits are missing a sizeable trick.

Yet in our own Sales world, are we too?

We might not quite harvest a saffron equivalent - an analogy for us too with a foodie prospect? - but we may well be able to cultivate our own version of prized spice or generally valued rarity.

In the constant pressure of the race to latch on to the latest fad - whether within our discipline or in those of our customers - are we also guilty of "failing to recognise what we're great at doing"?

One exercise I've done with salesteams in the past featured them speaking with their existing clients. One purpose being, to ask them what they thought we we're great at.

The answers often giving pause for much fevered debate internally. Usually with re-alignment plans emerging from it.

I've been in countless meetings where senior execs mull then push moving into a brand new arena.

We likely all know tales of such bizarre yet seductive success. In both our career and more broadly.

Perhaps the most cited today being Amazon's shift from ecommerce book selling to building the cloud that runs half the web. Although that's not anymore considered so much of a strategic stretch, given the technological link, despite it back then being huge.

Which is easily (gleefully?) offset by maybe the most costly failure of this kind. The present-day cancelling of Facebook's (actually, Zuckerberg's personal, which he even nicknamed “The Future”) 'metaverse' ambitions. At a staggering cash cost variously reported to be an eye-watering enormity in excess of $36bn (& that's just the Oct '21 figure, way before the project's termination, "on or about 18 March", '23).

Whilst Bezos, to use the b-school labels, engaged in 'backward vertical integration', Zuckerberg was akin to wildly 'unrelated diversification'. True 'blue sky thinking'. Seldom a sole successful strategy. Even Google hived off their 'moonshot' division into relatively pint-sized operations to minimise the typically huge fall-out rate.

My advice here tends to be (erroneously) seen as dampening. Risk-averse. Almost like a drag anchor-cum-energy vampire.

Yet without any doubt whatsoever, those initiatives that I've seen triumph from within tend to come from a place where one of the pillars builds from considering (another old b-school concept sadly in latter day neglect) 'core competences'.

Declinism is a term itself open to interpretation of some breadth.

Mainstream definitions cite concepts such as where Golden Age Thinking persists, with yesterday being perceived as better than today (& tomorrow). With feature of steep, indeed irreversible, decline prevalent. Along with a pervading attitude of pessimism.

If you sense any of these thwarting your potential, then now seems like a good time to address it.

A stablemate columnist separately warns about;

"[a] form of blinkered declinism – fixating on symptoms rather than root causes of ... stagnation".

Who wants to inhabit a place plagued by such doldrumatic stasis? Not us. So why not start with converting "the most pernicious" form declinism contains.

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