Power and influence of splinter groups

by | Oct 7, 2019

It’s easy to start an industry service organisation. In fact, a common pattern is for businesses to become dissatisfied with the performance of their industry organisation, so they exit and create a new one. A diversity of views is healthy, but sometimes the behaviours become toxic.

The pattern has a splintering effect on an industry, with increasing fragmentation, conflict and confusion.  More and more energy and resources get directed at managing internal industry conflict rather than a cohesive external orientation to create more value for more businesses.

Contrarian views are vital to provoke new thinking and stimulate change. For that reason, I like listening to the outliers and innovators who challenge dated industry institutions. More often than not, they have identified shortcomings with the current arrangements. For example, there may be too much emphasis on the interests of big or small businesses or too little evidence of value.

Interestingly, splinter groups are often seen as the domain of smaller businesses. However, this is untrue as big businesses usually share similar concerns about the value of industry services.

The critics often have legitimate issues and, when their concerns are ignored or dismissed for long enough, they mobilise to form a group and a new dynamic emerges with industry institutions being confronted from within.

Access to digital technologies makes it easy to amplify the views of these individuals and groups at an unprecedented scale and speed. Today, power and influence can be exerted at disproportionately higher levels than the size of a group suggests.

It gets toxic when splinter groups believe the means justify the ends. Then, you see public ridicule of individuals who hold an opposing point of view (targeting the person and not the issue) and the championing of popular but unattainable solutions (e.g. stop all the imports).

Mainstream business leaders are left with three basic options. Do we appease, defend against or out-create these groups?

My experience is that the most successful industry leaders opt for a strategy to out-create: visible, fresh thinking and solutions designed to meet the diverse service needs of their industry community.

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