Like the rest of America, I dutifully watched the final episode of Survivor last week. I was disappointed, but not surprised, when Rich walked away with the million-dollar prize and the new car.
What I found most interesting was the interview after the finale, when a Gen X player, who had been eliminated early, noted that he’d been in a tribe with other Gen Xers bent on “doing their own thing” and having fun.
The tribe and the players who lasted the longest, however, were very “corporate” and established a hierarchy early on.
Ultimately, the prize went to a conniving corporate trainer, who proclaimed from the beginning that he wasn’t there to make friends or be honest or even to have fun: He was there to win.
Instantly, I thought of the cultural conflict between the old economy and the new economy. Six months ago, every brick-and-mortar company was trying to recreate itself to mimic the new economy. But this revolution seems to be coming to an end.
For those of you who, by some sheer miracle, don’t know about Survivor, it’s a CBS-TV program where a bunch of strangers are thrown together, with no creature comforts and very little food, and forced to enter various ridiculous competitions against one another. At first, the survivors were grouped into two tribes. The tribe that lost a competition had to vote to eliminate a member. Eventually, it came down to two survivors and a jury of former survivors who determined the winner.
Dot coms are failing left and right, giving traditional businesses a chance to play catch-up in the e-marketplace. And I’m seeing articles declaring that corporate leaders are “tired of” relaxed manners and casual wear.
In the new economy, success has been based on what you know, not who you know; what you get done, not when you work; what your ideas are, not where you went to school. The new economy lured and retained employees by offering a fun, casual, and friendly atmosphere.
It’s an attractive environment, a benefit that companies should not underestimate. I rejected a corporate career and the security of a government job for a start-up because of the culture. I’m sure I’m not alone.
My fear is that this culture and the people who build it will falter when forced to compete with brick and mortars, which, like Rich, are in this to win.
Right now, the dot-com culture has the edge because those players created the new economy. But revolutions seldom end in true change. And the corporate, brick-and-mortar companies know how to play rough.
Here’s the question: Do the players from the dot-com culture have what it takes to survive the brick-and-mortar challengers playing under the old-economy rules?
Post your comments. Then, next week, we’ll wrap up the most insightful comments into an article.
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