This is the first article of a three article series that will discuss generation X entrepreneurs. The first article will look at one of the key ‘pains’ gen X entrepreneurs feel and place this experience within the context of the Connection Economy. Article two will present an organisational model to address this issue, discussing it roots, history, development, and relevance. The final article in the series will apply some of the principles of innovation to the organisational model and investigate where it can, and must, be modified to meet the requirements of a new generation of entrepreneurs. Through all three articles the real-life experience of a gen X entrepreneur will provide continuity and reflection.

As generation X’ers build the ‘connection economy’ it is reasonable to expect that many of them will become entrepreneurs and sole proprietor business owners. As this happens their worldview and core values will be expressed not only in the types of businesses they build, but also in how they build them.
When you speak to gen X’ers many of them moan about the frustrations associated with working for a boss, but when you ask them about going out on their own they go pale at the thought. Dig beneath the surface and you will find that fear of risk or failure is not the driver of this hesitance. The factor that dominates this reaction is an aversion to being alone. Being an entrepreneur is perceived as being out there on your own making your way without much company. For a network and connection driven generation the thought of being on your own is more terrifying than failure.
Candy is an X’er Bright Young Thing [BYT] in the design industry. Graduating from an exclusive girl’s high school with an ‘A’ aggregate matric she went on to university and completed a degree in fine art. She has worked in South Africa and spent three years working in the global design hub of New York. Currently working at a company in Cape Town she embodies all that X’er BYT’s should be. A few years ago Candy decided to take advantage of her skills and reputation and went out on her own to do freelance design work. In her own words she described the experience as follows: ‚The money was good, but I hated every minute of it. I hated not having anyone around‛. Eventually she stopped freelancing and went back to a company she had worked with before. She still harbours the wish to be out there, outside of the corporate sector, enjoying all the fruit of her labours and not just a monthly salary. What is keeping her from taking the leap is the danger of being on her own again. The ideal would be: ‚A place where there are others around to bounce ideas off, pool creativity, and get honest & informed criticism, but without having to answer to anyone but myself‛.
As the architects of the Connection Economy we cannot discount the fact that x’ers not only thrive in a relational environment, but they need this environment to function. While there may be exceptions, in general, we need to accept that the ‘social collective’ is a key component of the x’er world. If this is all true how will generation x develop a crop of entrepreneurs who profit from, and build on the products of the innovation activity of this group? The short answer is that they will do it differently to the boomers who built the Information Age.
In the next article in this series we will introduce the concept of Corporate Co-Operatives as a possible solution or answer to this problem. We will apply the concept to Candy’s experiences to see if it addresses the pains she felt. In the mean time it will be helpful to understand the following:
“ Gen X entrepreneurs are not the same as the boomer and silent generation entrepreneurs who have gone before them.
“ This difference is manifest in the fact that they are building a new world.
“ The connection and relationship heart of this new world is evident already in the dynamics and pains experienced by x’er entrepreneurs and innovators.
“ The sense of (a)loneliness x’ers feel when they are on their own is not weirdness or weakness � it is what makes them the perfect group of people to build a world and economy that offers more than lip service to that fact that ‘people matter’.
If you are a Gen X’er with dreams and aspirations of independence, but you are discouraged by the isolation you believe that implies � hold onto your ideals. In the rest of this series we will introduce you to a model that will help you turn your dreams in to reality.
Raymond De Villiers is a consulting futurist, with professional studies in subjects ranging from Mechanical Engineering to Theology. He is currently completing a Masters in Philosophy in Futures Studies at the Institute of Futures Research at the Stellenbosch University Business School. He is recognised as a creative and lateral thinker, able to combine wide-ranging resources to craft unique solutions. He has worked with many of South Africa’s large corporates, assisting them to develop their people strategies and futures planning.

TomorrowToday Global