Okay, I know, leave it to a blogger (and an American living in Britain at that) to pounce on the current topic, to ride coat tails, or in this case, to float on a bride’s veil.
Yes, forgive me, I’ll be making the somewhat unlikely connection between the royal wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William and — don’t swallow your Pimm’s too quickly — Innovation.
Throw me in the Tower of London dungeon if you will, but I insist, the more you think about it, the biggest challenge the lovely pair have is to Innovate.
All due respect, but can Will and Kate innovate? I hope they can, I do, sincerely, wish them well.
I see three big things where a lot of applied creativity will be required:
1. They need to Innovate the role of the monarchy in the UK (if the monarchy as a supported institution is to survive).
2. They need to set a bold new example — and support business innovation in the UK in more than a symbolic way.
3. They need to innovate themselves in order to preserve a good start to a lasting loving relationship.
Regarding #1. — The monarchy, whatever your beliefs about it, royalist or republican, needs innovation — now. Like most innovation challenges, it’s a seemingly impossible task. Heavy restrictions (laws!) and guard rails, it’s the ultimate “box”, being royalty, huge expectations, and limiting traditions — I wouldn’t wish for their role. British royalty did the brilliant thing many years ago and got out of the direct governing business. They are symbolic, but symbols are incredibly powerful, particularly in a media dominated age, so, in my view, they have more power than they know. Actually, they do know, but they also know it’s a very delicate line they walk, a gossamer thread of very fine but strong silk. Wills and Kate are the future of the monarchy and their every action speaks volumes, particularly to British citizens (but not only, interest in them in the USA and China, to name two countries, is huge). Why not reinvent the monarchy as something more than privilege? The Queen is exemplar in her service, but it has to be more than that as well — what Kind of Service? If I were Kate and Will I’d look for every opportunity possible to break with traditions that emphasize class, and create new traditions about the value of sharing, generosity, equal opportunity, and — invention. Or something else — but reframing of the role is clearly in order unless they want to be viewed as very realistic Barbie dolls (who really don’t require public funding). If you think of the royal family as a brand (and it is) it might be a good idea, as a brand manager, to think about a “whole new product line” — and not merely line extensions (I’m not talking about children). If I were advising the royal couple I’d have them asking themselves these questions: What does the brand mean right now? Not to themselves to consumers of the brand. What do you want it to mean in the future? I personally see this need as critical; those who don’t innovate eventually die, the royal family is no exception. If the monarchy doesn’t innovate its role, it will die.
Regarding #2. — It’s all very fine to do all the ribbon cutting, that’s part of their role, but real leadership means more meaningful actions. Something beyond just showing up dressed well. The royal family has played a supporting role to entrepreneur’s in the UK for centuries, why not take that to a new level? Why not take it to a broader playing field? The royals, Will and Kate included, have two things that are very helpful to a new business — money and connections. Use them! The UK has never needed a shot in the arm for business renewal more than it does now. Kate and Will, let your spotlight shine on the new businesses started by the young people of your generation. Please do whatever you can to create a future where prosperity doesn’t seem like an impossible dream for those born in council houses. Roll up your sleeves and help your fellow citizens create new businesses, jobs, and industries. Idea: fund an incubator in the most cheerless corner of the land — and show up there dressed for work.
Regarding #3. — The fairy tale wedding of Prince Charles and Diana was nearly as romantic as last week’s, and as we all know, it ended sadly. I sense Kate and Wills are in a better place at the starting gate, but keeping love alive will be a greater challenge for them then perhaps #1. & #2. Most couples have the luxury of sorting out problems in privacy, clearly, they won’t have this given the media glare. Far be it from me to give relationship advice, but I’ll say this: put this challenge first. The marriage comes first, the monarchy second, the country third. Take care of yourselves and you’ll be in a better spot to help others. Keep innovating yourselves, grow together, and best of luck.
Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We all pray you’ll use the gift of your titles with creativity.