Editor’s note: The shutdown reminds us — we’re on our own.

October 6, 2013

I’m not sure I could tell there was a government shutdown under way last Tuesday as I commuted to work. Traffic seemed as congested as always.

For once, I considered the rush-hour slowdown to be a good thing: It meant there was still business to be done in our company town.

And yet, the shutdown served as a reminder of why so many people appear to be interested in entre­pre­neur­ship these days. Our institutions no longer seem to provide the bedrock they once did. More and more, we are on our own.

It’s not just government. Rare is the industry that is not experiencing some form of disruption. One need look no further than staff writer Catherine Ho’s story in this week’s issue, focusing about how marketing firms are adjusting to new client demands. Capital Business is certainly familiar with change as well; we now have a new owner after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos finalized his purchase of The Washington Post.

Success requires constant reinvention. And that requires people to take some initiative, and take responsibility for figuring out what happens next.

This is hardly a new observation. I recently read a blog post mentioning the writings of the late management guru Peter Drucker. He foresaw the necessity for individuals to take charge back in 1966 when he described the rise of the “knowledge worker” in his book “The Effective Executive.”

Drucker quoted an American infantry captain in the Vietnam jungle who explained the importance of training troops to think on their feet in the heat of battle, should they find themselves suddenly alone.

“In a guerilla war, every man is an ‘executive,’” Drucker wrote.

The business battleground today can seem equally chaotic. We can blame the Great Recession, sequestration, globalization, technology or what-have-you for shaking up our well-made plans. But face it, change is part of the landscape, and it only seems to be coming faster and faster. The shutdown is just the latest test of our resiliency. More challenges will undoubtedly follow.

The key is to acquire the skills and temperament to stay nimble, keeping your eye on the opportunities ahead.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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