Retrenchment and the Power of Re-


Re-cession. We’re in the middle of it and people are talking about their jobs, livelihood and future. According to the Huffington Post, jobless claims rose in 46 states last week, with California posting it’s highest jobless rate in three decades (11.2%). What’s more, while the economy tanks technology continues to change industries and the way we do business under our feet. As a result many people will not be absorbed back into those industries once the economy recovers because they will have moved on. As Jeff Jarvis, media columnist for The Guardian and author of What Would Google Do?, rightly noted:

Media – music, newspapers, TV, magazines, books – may be lucky to be among the first to undergo this radical restructuring. Other industries and institutions – advertising, manufacturing, government – are next and they, like their predecessors, don’t see what’s coming, especially if they think all they’re undergoing is a crisis. The change is bigger, more fundamental, and more permanent than that.

I had one such conversation this weekend with a smart, creative friend. He wondered what would happen if he lost his job, had to start again, if his industry had fundamentally changed? Instead of panicking, he did something very smart (not surprisingly). He put the situation to good use by asking himself three questions.

1. What do I like to do? When you are forced to change direction you ask yourself some pretty fundamental questions. How long has it been since ‘what you like to do’ has been important to anyone, including yourself? In short, he Re-considered.

2. What do I offer? Business BS, image management, false modesty and self-delusion aside, what do I consistently offer the people I work with? So he Re-viewed.

3. Who do I want to be? What do I want to contribute? What issues, business leaders or companies do I respect? What would I be proud to leave behind? (Ok, that’s four questions in one.) He Re-invented himself.


As painful as change is, he recognized that it also offers enormous opportunity to those willing to act on the answers to these questions. It’s simply a matter of transferring strengths you have in one area to an area where they don’t currently exist. By Re-branding you stay relevant and become part of the process of change rather than a casualty of it. Not to mention inspire others.

It’s like being in your early twenties again (God forbid!), only you’re a little wiser (hopefully), and have some skills under your belt. All you need now is the same bravado that inhabited you then. That’s essential as business and industries are going to keep on changing faster than ever. In fact our future as creative people depends on our ability to Re-act by diversifying, adapting and staying consistently entrepreneurial.

These three questions have the power to transform a difficult period to one of Re-newal. Sure, it’s scary and hard work. But the next generation of industries, companies and wealth are being created right now. Whether it’s biotechnology, energy efficiency, environmental protection, sustainable design or something someone hasn’t even thought of yet, there are businesses being born every day that need the skills we already have. The new White House administration has ushered in an era of dramatic, industry-wide Re-invention (auto, financial, energy) and we can play a role. In doing so, you also get all the fun of creating something new (including you).