A couple of weeks ago I was staying with friends and we drove past a really striking dead tree. The tree’s form was twisted and knarled, a deep grey, silhouetted against the bright blue sky. It struck me how beautiful the dead tree was, and made me think more broadly, about life cycles, and then how this applies to ideas. What happens to dead projects and ideas? Life is a cycle after all, so why are some of us British types so reticent to accept it, when projects don’t work or simply come to an end, or when a great idea isn’t as brilliant anymore?
In the UK, folding a business, or an idea is often seen as failure, whereas in the US it is not seen so critically, and in some cases failure is celebrated. I believe in learning by doing, trial and error, and that nothing is ever finished, or permanent. I believe that all of us, and our ideas, exist in a state of flux. We should accept this, and embrace it.
One of the hardest things is learning when to let go and move on, whether it is people, possessions, projects or ideas. Surely all of us can relate to a moment in which we think we’ve cracked it, but as soon as we do, the market changes, the moment we become content, we become lazy or complacent? I know I certainly can. Entrepreneurs are widely seen as risk-takers, not afraid to try something, and if it doesn’t work, try something else. In this increasingly fast-moving and fragile knowledge-based economy, isn’t this an attitude we should all adopt?
At Redfront we started a talent development project a couple of years ago called co.lab, and got really close to getting significant international funding to roll it out, but not quite close enough. This project was laid to rest – it failed its international mission. However we learnt an incredible amount from co.lab, as did everyone involved, and are now trying out another idea inspired by it, sharing risk and knowledge between larger numbers of UK companies, which we hope ultimately will be more fit for purpose, and sustainable.
Similarly with our pop_up community we try out different ideas and approaches all the time – it is our live network and ideas lab. We have tried themed and co-hosted events, visual showcasing on flickr, and regular events in three locations. We’ve run pop_up practical Sessions, on useful stuff and built up a loyal community on and offline – it’s time to move pop_up on, time for a handover. We think the regular events format is tired and think that flickr isn’t social enough. We are now trying out pinterest for sharing images and developing a pop_up toolkit so others can tap into the network and run their own events. For pop_up to continue it needs to constantly evolve, and be driven by the community it serves.
We don’t see any of these developments as negative. We try things out and try again, as a matter of course. It’s important – that’s what we are about. Everything has a cycle of its own. The end of one thing signals the beginning of something else. Let’s embrace life-cycles of ideas, learn from them, and keep moving on.