An ecosystem of emergent enterprise
for a radically better future


An open letter and invitation

We are 1980 Something. An ecosystem for a new form of value creation. An institution for the preservation and expansion of human potential. A think tank for radical innovation and breakthrough transformation. And a refuge for misfits, freethinkers, and game changers. But who we are matters far less than why we are. This open letter is to anyone who believes there has to be a better way. That change is not only necessary, but possible. It is an invitation to anyone who wants to think, imagine, and create at the unfolding edge of the emerging future and for the benefit of all humanity.

Our wicked context

We live in an age of unimaginable events and unthinkable change: a meshwork of nested crises creating unprecedented environmental, macroeconomic, and geopolitical shocks1. These ‘wicked problems’2 are upending every sector and disrupting every life. The Anthropocene3 can be felt by everyone, everywhere, all at once.

But what’s worse is an apparent and collective inability to tackle these crises. Of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a third have stalled or gone into reverse4. Extreme poverty, hunger, and inequality are worse now than when we set out to eradicate them back in 2015.

But this isn’t about finger pointing. Nor do we think it’s purely the result of inaction. Instead, we believe that the human-made systems, models, institutions, tools, processes, and philosophies we have relied on for centuries have finally reached their limit. Like the transport systems of megacities, they are no longer fit for purpose. They simply can’t cope with the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity5 inherent in wicked problems.

Let’s take commercial enterprise. One hundred and fifty-seven of the world’s largest 200 institutions are corporations6. They are uniquely positioned with the influence, resource, and manpower to affect change at a global scale. And yet, less than 1% of CEOs actually believe they can7. Why?

Well, many of us will be familiar with the statistics8. Only 23 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work9. Seventy-five percent of new products and services fail to be commercially successful10. Seventy percent of change and transformation programmes fail to achieve their objectives11. And the RoA of US public companies is down to just 25 percent of what it was back in 196512.

Or — to answer the question more bluntly — because most companies make people miserable, they can’t innovate, they can’t change, and, as a result, grossly underperform against their potential13.

And that potential matters — deeply. Because the wicked problems facing humanity need us operating at our absolute limits, enjoying the full benefit of our collective intelligence and creative ingenuity. And that? Well, that demands we put aside everything we think we know and embrace a new set of possibilities.

If organisations are to thrive in our accelerated context, if they are to become part of the solution to these wicked problems, then they need an entirely new infrastructure. One birthed from just and regenerative philosophies. One that grows stronger when exposed to volatility and uncertainty. And one built on an entirely different set of assumptions.

A new infrastructure

Our first enterprise—which will be announced shortly—was birthed from a desire to understand and tackle the structural disconnects prevalent in wicked problems where existing infrastructures have failed. Through systems intervention, missions collaboration, and futures innovation, we will work with organisations to cultivate the environments necessary for entirely new patterns of regenerative value creation to emerge, triggering chain reactions of positive impact across multiple sectors. But more on that to come.

A vehicle for change

We believe that — given the right environment — everyday people can achieve some not so everyday things, every day at work. But we also believe that that demands an entirely new way of thinking — an entirely new vehicle for change.

Which is why we decided that helping clients to innovate and change was never going to be enough. We needed to be radically different in ourselves. Not because we have all the answers, but because we must be willing to challenge our assumptions. To put aside our personal biases and to ask, what kind of vehicle is required if we aren’t to fall into the trap of ‘most companies’? What must be true if we are to ride above the waves of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity? What kind of environment is necessary to fill people with joy, spark innovation, fuel change, and grossly over perform against any perceived potential we may have (and we’re not talking about profit).

1980 Something was birthed from that ideal and may always remain an unfinished idea. What it will become continues to emerge as new changemakers join us in mission. What we are today can be summarised simply as this: an ecosystem of emergent enterprise, united in meaning, charged to create new forms of value, while sharing in — and sharing — the benefits. These pivotal principles are what we continue to build 1980 Something on.

An ecosystem of emergent enterprise

While we love much of the management theory now being tested in the real world — Teal Organisations14, DisCOs15, and the Rendanheyi Model16 to name a few — we hope to allow something new to emerge as people join us. Think of it as an invitation to imagine, design, and build — from the ground up — the type of organisation necessary to deliver real change. For now, we’re simply going with the term ‘emergent enterprise’.

Like a flock of birds or school of fish, emergence is the phenomenon that occurs when complex patterns, structures, and behaviours arise from the interactions of simpler components within a system17. Emergent enterprise is this in an organisational context, where new economic initiatives evolve and develop in an organic and dynamic manner, rather than being rigidly planned or structured from the outset.

In order to cultivate a culture that encourages emergent enterprise, we hope to balance two often competing concepts: distributed and autonomous organisms (the emergent enterprises) operating within a common, if decentralised, infrastructure (the ecosystem).

The organisms — like microenterprises — are encouraged to emerge, self-organise, and remain autonomous. They are free to exchange economic value, pool resources, and form joint-ventures, all without control from the centre. Their properties, strategies, and structures are left to emerge over time through interactions and adaptations within the organism, its people, and the market it operates within.

At the same time, we hope to remove any perceived or real barriers to entry, while enabling a near zero-cost of creation. To that end, we have developed a common infrastructure that each enterprise can tap into. Common technologies and tools to enhance visibility and enable collaboration. Open value accounting to measure and reward its creation in a more comprehensive and inclusive manner. Funding and investment to support learning and experimentation. In short, we want people to do what they love — what they find meaning in and want to master — without the administrative burdens and financial risks often associated with startups.

Overall, we prioritise flexibility, adaptability, and innovation, embracing change and allowing for the exploration of new ideas and opportunities as they arise. We won’t adhere to one predefined and fixed business model, rather we encourage experimentation, learning, and continuous intervention as we collectively navigate our ever-changing and increasingly complex world.

United in meaning

Of course, like many organisations, we too have a purpose — a reason for being. As an ecosystem, we see our role as cultivating that meaning, and helping others to develop their own mastery in whatever field they are passionate about. Work may be work — and as such a tiring labour — but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t also be a great source of pleasure.

As a collective, we exist to preserve, expand, and fulfil humanity’s potential so that together, we can tackle planetary sized problems. Our mission is to make a just and regenerative value system an advantage for all. If these are things you can get behind and believe in, then we want to hear how you could contribute your own vast potential in making it a reality.

We are under no illusion that this will be achieved in our lifetime, but we have every intention of doing what we can, with what we have, in whatever time we have left before we pass on the baton to others.

Charged with creating new forms of value

The rise of stock markets has decoupled the financial economy from the real economy18. Corporate leadership has become more focused on managing the market’s expectations of value, than in actually creating it. Only 22% of corporate directors believe their fellow board members understand how their firms create value in the first place19. This frightening truth is perhaps why we have witnessed a steady decline in RoA since the 1960s, despite significant ‘growth’ in that same period20.

Perhaps more frightening — according to the OECD — is that our 500 year old growth model will be in its fourth decade of decline by 206021. In fact, they predict near zero-growth for the rest of the 21st century. Given the majority of CEOs continue to prioritise growth22, at least some will be facing disappointment.

While we are beginning to see organisations finally abandon the 50 year old concept of shareholder primacy23, we need to go further. Value comes in many forms, and it's certainly not only monetary. Real value is about health, wellbeing, opportunity, and other forms of true prosperity. And it is in that space that we have chosen to contribute our collective knowledge and experience.

The emergence of any enterprise in any field is welcome, but it must further our mission and it must seek to create value beyond the financial. It must deliver true value.

Sharing in — and sharing — the benefits

Some modern management theory suggests organisations of the future will be ‘ownerless’. That may be true, but right now we live in a world governed by money. As such, we recognise the importance of sharing in the benefits of the commercial business. We believe it is important to show how much we value our creators as much as we charge them to create it.

1980 Something is entirely employee owned. Anyone and everyone who joins us has a voice and a share. Individual enterprises reward both the people they emerge from and the entire ecosystem. Success is mutual.

We also want to give back. After all, what’s the point in working for the future of humanity if you ignore the humans around you right now. We’re committed to helping those less fortunate than ourselves, and continue to seek partnerships with innovative organisations that make a difference in the community.

An invitation

We will continue to build out this site introducing any new enterprises that emerge, and supplementing this letter with our values and philosophies. In the meantime, if you would like to join us, believe in our purpose, and can commit to the mission, come and participate. We’d love to hear from you.

1. United Nations. (n.d.). Global issues.
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3. Natural History Museum. (n.d.). What is the Anthropocene?
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15. (2019). DisCO Manifesto v1.1.
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18. International Monetary Fund. (2020, June). The Disconnect Between Financial Markets and the Real Economy (Special Series on COVID-19).
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20. IPCC. (2021). Summary for Policymakers. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
21. Macrotrends. (n.d.). World GDP per capita.
22. Gartner. (2022, January 20). Survey Signals Pause and Pivot Year for CEOs.
23. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. (2019, August 19). The CEOs of nearly 200 companies just said shareholder value is no longer their main objective.