Some New Thoughts on Old Ideas

This week I want to look at some ideas I’ve written about here over the years, and share some of the new ways I’ve begun to think about them more recently.

I just attended the annual FFI Conference in NYC, where my thoughts are always stimulated, as I get to gather and absorb the latest from many of the standouts in the field of family enterprise.

It was during the opening keynote that the seed for this blog was planted, when the speaker talked about how so often we need to sit back and see what emerges.

Hmmm, I thought; I often talk about how things need to evolve, but he’s talking about emergence. How are they similar and how are they different?

That question is where we’ll begin, but then later we’ll look at the idea of rebirth, which emerged in my mind after a fantastic breakout session the following day. (See what I did there?)


Evolution Vs Emergence – Compare and Contrast

Long time readers (thanks!) are familiar with the fact that I love to talk about evolution whenever the subject turns to family governance.

See The Evolution of Family Governance

I believe that the best and most sustainable governance is co-created and built very slowly over time. 

I always suggest this approach, because so many people need time to understand and accept whatever processes and structures they are putting together to govern the way their family relates to their business.

See From Understanding to Agreement, Via Acceptance

What I had not considered until now is how and where the idea of emergence fits into this long process.

While this is still relatively new thinking in my head, my initial view is that there are small ideas that emerge during this evolution, and then each of those needs to be looked at on its own.

Some of the things that emerge, perhaps as a suggestion, will turn out to be less than ideal, and then they should be discarded.

Other ideas will emerge, and seem useful, may become championed by some family members, and then could become part of how things evolve positively going forward.


Dealing with the Little Ideas that Emerge

That whole process of figuring out how to deal with the little ideas that emerge during the longer arc of evolution, becomes the day-to-day aspect of making sure that the governance being built will be “fit-for-purpose” for that particular family.

See Making your Transition Plans “Fit for Purpose” from last week.

Suggestions are mentioned, debated, and perhaps tried out. Some will stick, and likely get modified and improved over time, while others will prove to be unusable or detrimental, and will be discontinued.

Thus little things that emerge become, or not, part of the overall evolution of how the family decides how to be together.


All Good Things Must Come to an End

Switching timeframes now, there was another great session at the conference, called When It’s Time to Part Ways.

I typically search out the breakout sessions that deal with subjects we don’t talk about enough in our field, and this one fit the bill.

So many sessions treat finding better ways to make sure that we can support families we work with as they attempt to transition their family’s assets to the next generation, all while preserving family togetherness.

Many times, however, a family will be at the logical end of its ability to do this for one more generation, and trying to find a way to part ways amicably becomes an interesting and important option to look at.


Rebirth – Success After “Failure”?

During audience discussion at that session, it became clear that the most common reason this rarely gets pursued by families (and their advisors) is that it feels like a failure if the family is unable to keep its business or wealth under broad family ownership through their next generational transition.

But often by the time they do get there, they wish they’d done it ten years earlier!

As advisors, we need to have the courage to put such ideas on the table, showing families that it is not a failure, and actually becomes an opportunity for rebirth.

If wealth is separated after family members part ways, new ideas will surely emerge in various family branches.

The really good ones that emerge will continue to evolve in positive ways, and the whole family will hopefully have avoided a situation where family relationships have been irreparably harmed.

Isn’t that a success?