Maximillian Kaizen
Maximillian Kaizen

African leadershift: social capitalism

There’s an emerging realisation that the strength of distributed nodal power bases is almost unconquerable.
Guerrilla movements, social media and small, focused niches of the Long Tail cause disruption that produces evolutionary economic shifts. Market-making is shifting into the hands of some unlikely new leaders in the quick online world. The butterfly effect of the seemingly insignificant ripples deep in a connected world.

The creaking inefficiencies of organisations grown fat on deep.laid pipelines feeding in profit, while they worry themselves with the real business of hierarchical power play, leaves room for the nimble to spot the leaks and move in to take advantage of their complacency.

Great business opportunities have ever come to entrepreneurs this way. Committee.stagnated bureaucracies, often mask the dazzlingly obvious gaps and simple solutions seen by those “on the ground”.

I know some ferociously passionate small-business advocates on a mission to overthrow the evil corporate megaliths. Their ferocity is no less than that of enflamed radicals who obsess over taking down governments or religions with ancient pipelines of profit and control. They may be the more extreme edge, but they represent our global exhaustion with an outmoded industrial model of power.
However, without the prestige of doing business with giants (should they make it through the limitless red.tape labyrinth intact), most entrepreneurs would falter in developing the credibility so needed to challenge the establishment in the first place. You’re no one till you have a client list well.weighted with big names.

The inevitable problem with power.shifts is that inevitably even the most radical opponents take on the past regime and soon snuggle into the plush pile, merely putting new faces into the same structure. We repeat what we know; even leaders follow.

David and Goliath is a memorable story particularly because it’s rare that one skillful individual will take down a terrorising giant singlehandedly. The likelihood of many taking on the mighty is far stronger.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” — Margaret Mead

Collaborative leadership is something Africa knows far back in her ancient memory, but something that is returned fresh and sexy in global business strategy, and consequently all the rage at the best business schools.

Power widely networked and strongly leveraged on relationships, less territory dominion and more open-sourced: this is a place where those who have been operating on the peripheries are most at home. Power is shifting to the unlikely (do we hear strains of the geek shall inherit the earth). “Diversity” leadership forums are springing up as the world scrambles to deal with a flatter, broader operating system into which it needs to be reformatted for a future fast incoming.

Can all of this synergy, relationship networking and collaboration yield hard profit, though? Perhaps there is no need to abolish the old to bring in the new, no bloody revolutions to mark its passing. Social entrepreneurs like Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus see the leaks and insufficiencies in governments and fill those cracks with both enormous good and good business. Somewhere between too soft charity and too hard capitalism may lie a more human scale economy. Not driven and directed by a Platonic elite, but smaller collaborative units, tribes for a time. This is happening online, and the successes emerging out of social capital indicate that we should at least be experimenting with a fresh economic headspace.

Waiting on leaders to sort our situation out could be an exercise in futility. It may not get better, no matter who we support.

Perhaps now is the time to gather your own tribe: collaborate, co.create. We can communicate around the world with immediacy and ease, and have access to information that was previously secreted in privileged hands.
If we want it, the capacity is here as never before to do something about the issues we give a damn about, to gather others who are similarly focused and move with all the speed and agility that the tech-connected world allows, to flow in and around the cracks of the old system to produce small miracles;
bound only by bandwidth and our bravery.

  • Jon

    For all the overdone emboldening, italicising and emphasising, the core claim — that the future belongs to smart, opportunistic niche operators — is fatally flawed.

    That lean, mean opportunistic fast-moving niche operator accumulates flab and inertia at about the same rate as it accumulates power and influence.

    By the time it gets strong enough to be a true decision-maker, it’s so flabby that it pretty much duplicates the decision-maker it replaces.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Maximillian Kaizen

    Jon thanks for your comment, but that is exactly what I was saying.
    perhaps you need to read this again:
    “The inevitable problem with powershifts is that inevitably even the most radical opponents take on the past regime and soon snuggle into the plush pile, merely putting new faces into the same structure. We repeat what we know; even leaders follow.”

    Which is why we need a headspace shift regarding leadership and economic education, because very few leaders regardless of how smart they are, tend to follow history and what they have been taught or mentored into.

    As for my style, I have a peculiar e.e.cummings defiance about manipulating words (physically, metaphorically, stylistically) that entirely offends purists.

    I write for the eye within this medium, realising that soothing streams of text may not be as tuned to the few seconds most readers can afford to scan articles online.

  • Karen Lotter

    Brava Max! I like the “collaborative leadership” bit and the “flatter, broader operating systems”. I fully get the “tribes for a time” that’s how I operate my business life.

    I agree, we need to just get busy and get on with it.

    You’re the one with the sweet turn of phrase, but I guess it has a lot to do with taking responsibility of ourselves our community and our planet.

    And it has nothing to do with the future belonging to “smart operators” – I have seen shining success stories in a variety of co.ops in rural communities.

  • Maximillian Kaizen

    Karen, thank you and hell yeah! the co.op model – particularly in Africa – has been a saving grace. It is robust, enables confidence and skills sharing, and encourages responsible, cleaner, wealthier communities as a spill.over effect.
    Sizani Ngubane of the Rural Women’s Movement or Dr Wangari Maathai are powerful initiators of huge successes in this regard.
    We DON’T have to do everything ourselves, the propriety silo model hasn’t got the exclusive rights to business success.
    The DTI have some interesting outreaches on supporting co.operatives in a more formal structure with oodles of benefits worth looking at. Would be outstanding if more of us were brave enough to step in and give it a try!

    oh yes, you’re right:
    lord save us from the “smart operators” on whose silver tongued salesmanship many have slid into early demise. Those who are smart enough to see the massive opportunities on the horizon but hustle hard and quickly package vapourware for the gullible. yuck. The case studies for that cluster like crazy at the breaking point of the dot com bust.

  • Perry Curling-Hope

    “Waiting on leaders to sort our situation out could be an exercise in futility. It may not get better, no matter who we support.”


    I believe we have approximately three times as many armed private ‘security’ personnel as we do police.

    Recently I accidentally triggered an alarm while feeding a friends cat while she was away….they were there in less than 2 minutes.

    I think what we really need is for the minister of safety and security to intervene in the public interest, and tie these upstarts down with their centrally planned lumbering bureaucratic edifice they elect to call ‘good governance’

    Except for the obscenely perverse, flab has never been fab.

  • AndreSC

    yea shift happens and thank god for that,
    but at the same time I hope we get past shifting from one old paradigm to some other old paradigm.
    Max, you place some emphasis on the role of connectivi_tech – art has long mirrored our collective shifts and shudders – thinking about what the changing face of the web might say about the larger picture i thought it might be interesting to pull a little paraphrasing a paragraph of Clay Shirky’s talk on ontology , replacing ‘information’ with ‘power’ and ‘categorization’ with ‘conventions':
    What I think is coming instead are much more organic ways of organizing information power than our current categorization schemes (political & market) conventions allow, based on (especially) two units aspects — the link connectivity , which can point to levarage (virtually) anything, and the tag dynamic-free-association, which is a way of attaching labels to links facilitating meaningfull participation and feedback. The strategy of tagging user-centred i.e. citizen based — free-form labeling governence, without regard to categorical conventional constraints — seems like a recipe for disaster, but as the Web has shown us, you can extract a surprising amount of value from big messy data sets (- if you know where and how to look:).

  • Maximillian Kaizen

    Perry LOL!good heavens I am inspired for gym after that comment “flab has never been fab” indeed :’-D Shamefully, the police have been operating not just within the confines of a lumbering bureaucratic edifice but one that is rotting from within if the allegations against the head of police turn out to be valid. Obscene and slightly surreal.

    Andre insightful as ever Andre, dammit I have to chat to you when I come to Jozi next! Your remix is superb.

    The chaordic model rarely seems to make any rational sense but it’s the underlying OS that our universe was forged in:
    clearly from one very big messy data set can come wonders, all depends on finding the right attractors to start clustering order and coherent shared behaviour around.

  • Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen

    The question however is whether people/groups that break new ground, will ever do it for the money. Personally, I think the ideas are most important. I however do not share your enthusiasm for online communities providing radical departure points. Granted, there are some really useful sites and services, but online communities are very dislocated from reality, and struggles. Thanks for an interesting read.

  • Maximillian Kaizen

    Ebrahim-Khalil valid point, and we’re seeing much more of that with crowdsourced innovation. People at the pioneering edge inevitably will freely offer their time and expertise to develop and birth new products, software, business models into the market for values other than money.. and it’s spawning new and unexpected dynamics in the global economy.
    Fascinating to watch and be a part of.

  • Oldfox

    Perry Curling-Hope

    “I think what we really need is for the minister of safety and security”

    I say what we really need, is a minister of safety and security, because we don’t have one. We have a figurehead with that title.