As the clock ticked toward my Friday-morning keynote at FOWA London 2008 I was seriously tense, because late Thursday I’d torn up my nearly-cooked speech. What I gave instead was a dark-hued scary message entitled Getting Through the Tough Times. Because, you know, I’m scared.
You can watch the whole speech (damn quick production work, whoever got that on the air so fast) but I’m going to reproduce the message here as a series of posts over the next few days, which (if you care about this stuff) will probably be more efficient than watching a 35-minute video.
The first few parts are about the kinds of organizational behavior that are appropriate when things are lousy.
Next are a few suggestions of specific areas where tough times might generate interesting business opportunities.
Finally, some thoughts on how you, as an individual, can help yourself out in the context of tough times.
Back Story · What happened was, I’d sketched out most of a breezy light-hearted feel-good keynote along the lines of “Rails now, PHP arrgh, testing essential, marketing voice bad, human voice good, Flash doomed”; entertaining while not entirely vacant, I’d hoped. But then I spent Tuesday through Thursday in London talking to bankers, watching TV, and trying to understand the financial meltdown.
As a result, I got more and more convinced that we in the developed world are in for a pretty severely shitty period; short and deep or long and shallow; let me just say that I hope it’s one of those two. Then when I got to the show, it was jam-packed with starry-eyed young geeks high as a kite about how they were gonna build the next mega-viral social-networking stream-aggregating tag-driven microformat-rich video-focused Facebook-beating Kozmick Web Nexus, and I was thinking “Yeah, well actually some of you are gonna be looking for work pretty soon.” So, since these people are my tribe and I care about them, I just had to rewrite the talk.
It was a big room with big lights and I couldn’t actually see the crowd, so I really had no idea how it’d gone over. The Twitter buzz was mostly pretty positive, and so since I put quite a bit of work into this thang, I thought I should write it down and toss it into the global discussion pool.
Which I started doing on the ten-hour flight home. Trouble was, I realized at one point that I wasn’t nearly done but already had over two thousand words. So I think the practical thing is to turn it into a series.
Why I’m Scared · Through the miracle of credit, civilization actually gets to run on the illusion that there are several times more money available than we all actually have. This has worked mostly pretty well for several hundred years now. But as of this week, it’s all locked up, and even the good outcomes envisage a contraction of the credit universe and thus the necessity to get along on less money. I just don’t see any way it doesn’t cause some severe distortion and breakage in the economy. As of today, even IBM is having trouble getting the credit they need to run their business; God help the rest of us.
Right now it feels to me like the day after Katrina hit New Orleans. We’re all beat up and battered, but mostly still alive and starting to think about maybe rebuilding. But in the background, the waters are rising and the levee is failing.
But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe things will blow over in ten or twenty months, nothing more than a mild downturn. We’ll see. In the meantime, a conversation about getting by in tough times can’t be a bad thing.