“I am unashamedly a Baby Boomer. We were the first generation to take ‘growth’ for granted. Somehow we claimed an inalienable right to grow every business, year after year, all the time. After all, we were Masters of the Universe and we thought ourselves to be in charge around here,” says Wolfgang Grulke.
Our parents, the Silent Generation, had no such illusions. They were faced with the Great Depression sandwiched between two World Wars. They were delighted when things were stable and predictable. That really was ‘Good News!’
The Baby Boomers invented ‘growth’. The stock markets came to insist on it. There was an insatiable thirst for growth, every business was driven by the desire for maximum growth.
Now, it seems, the world is changing its mind!
Wherever you look, the advocates of a ‘steady-state economy’ are the ones getting attention. The LSE is hosting a scenario conference titled ‘Flatlining the Economy’. Wasn’t this ‘Steady State Economy’ what Baby Boomers considered “an experiment in stagnation and inevitable death?”
Companies that can deliver “modest but predictable results” are suddenly more attractive to investors than those that boast of magical growth potential.
Venture capital firms are chasing the modest and humble entrepreneur, not those that promise huge profits from risky ventures.
“It’s a reaction both to the greed and excess that led to the financial meltdown of 2008/9, as well as a recognition that the world’s resources are finite,” said Harvard economist Sanjeev Naicker. “Businesspeople are now rejecting high growth as a symbol of greed and non-caring.”
There is of course a danger here. Abandoning the destructive side of Schumpeter’s ‘Creative Destruction’ could signal the end of business risk, and cause an irreversible slide in innovation.
Could today’s fashion for a steady-state economy really meet the needs and aspirations of future generations?
The jury is out.