Editor’s note: William Dunk, head of William Dunk Partners, an international consulting firm in Chapel Hill, is a frequent contributor to Local Tech Wire.Sir John Templeton is right: we seem to be caught in a nine-year Bear Market.

Everything else is in flagrant disarray as well. The real economy, with occasional blips upwards, is in a stall, and thousands of workers will most likely get laid off from big enterprises once again in 2003. We’re still fighting terrorism with 20th-century tactics, while AIDS in Africa is getting so bad that smart companies like Heineken are offering almost free drug care to their employees in order to preserve their very precious workforce. We could regale you with lots of other bad news, but we won’t.

With such terrible weather all around you, how do you keep your head up in the storm, forge ahead, and look for the bright golden sky Rogers and Hammerstein told us was in the offing?

It seems you will have to look inside yourself. In Stephen Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage,” the protagonist at first catches the terror of war and flees in panic. But later he is illuminated by an inner existential gleam of light and intelligence, making his way forward amidst carnage and the panic of his fellow soldiers. In other words, there is a way out inside yourself. That Crane, who as a journalist in Cuba drank his way through the Spanish American War and cowered in its midst, could author such a tale is heartening. What then will release the pent-up reserves we never knew we had?

In Broome Time

In The New York Times (January 22, 2003), Raymond Bonner amuses us with an account of Broome, Australia where people have opted out of the globe, ambition, and that collection of activities we call “the rat race.”

“To describe Broome as laid back would suggest a level of energy greater than appears to exist in this remote town, once the bustling center of the world’s pearl trade, which laid the foundation for a cultural diversity that is visible today in faces, physique, and skin colors.” Broome is how places like Santa Fe, Vieques, and Glacier Bay are meant to be, but they’re all part of the ceaseless hubbub now.

Happiness is to be had by getting off the Titanic now, instead of waiting for it to crash. It’s not carrying a notebook computer or a Blackberry. Turning off your cell phone. Making sure the kids pull out of some drone activities at school and know enough not to take their homework too seriously, since the academy now worships quantity and hyper-activity instead of quality and useful leisure. Taking the train instead of the plane, even if the Government over-subsidizes airlines and starves ground mass transportation.

If you’re “in Broome time” surely you have detached yourself from as many unworkable systems as you can. You’re looking for the exits out of life’s chaotic crowded movie theater.

Guerilla tribes

If you’re opting out, what are you opting into? You’re looking for guerillas who are having fun and determined to slay giants. In practical terms, you are probably discovering that most large organizations, no matter their sector, are slowly bleeding to death these days, desperately trimming staff to preserve the illusion of solvency, hoping they can wait out the downturn. Even GE, currently the world’s most admired corporation, has hit several very bad speed bumps. These corporations, foundations, and governments do not know that their very hearts are in trouble, and they’re not undertaking the total remake that might give them an afterlife.

But there are small companies that are staring death in the face every day and still come out slugging. They have the guerilla instinct. We advise one tiny financial services company that has a big, big idea that can’t get financing from risk-adverse banks and venture capitalists: it is digging up prospective investors in Canada, around the Mediterranean, atop the Emerald Isle, and near a Southern backwater. Then there’s the small healthcare company we counsel that has the effrontery to say it can take 20% of the costs out of the national healthcare system and has a 50% growth rate to show for it. JetBlue is raging ahead at New York’s Kennedy Airport, because its gang of believers thinks it has the right bag of tricks to run circles around the majors.

Oddly enough, for all of them, the threat of going out of business every day is the tonic that inspires fast action and rampant innovation. Hard times make them run, not run in place.

Big, unpopular ideas

What we’ve said here is that the way to keep your spirits up in hard times when everybody else is taking Prozac is to swim upstream, while others let the current carry them down into the abyss. Ultimately, this may lead you to propagate a big, unpopular idea on which the powers that be heap a load of scorn. In one of his plays, probably Enemy of the People, Ibsen talked of the importance of the compact minority, knowing full well that received opinion is often very, very wrong. We’re at a transition point now where unpopular ideas are very important. (Some of these are found on our website under “Big Ideas.”)

Bjorn Lomborg, professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, has been reviled the world over by scientists in ad hominem attacks for his book The Sceptical Environmentalist, which contends that the environment is not half as bad off as the high priests of science would have us believe.

Luca Turin, now chief scientist at a Virginia company called Flexitral (www.flexitral.com), has come up with a unified theory of smell that threatens to turn the perfume and flavoring industries on their ears. His struggles to put his ideas across are chronicled in a new book called “The Emperor of Scent.”

Dr. Atkins, author of the diet that businessmen most like, has been steadily attacked by the heart and nutritionist establishment for his diet theories, yet he is now coming into the mainstream as we learn that bread and carbohydrates have a lot more to do with our obesity epidemic that we previously understood. Pushing unpopular theories gives their proponents a sense of divine purpose, and it is, by the way, the only way we can get rid of the intellectual baggage of the past that is now weighing us down.

If you want to be up, when others are down, you had better pull away from them. Go to a better place. Get with people who have a clear purpose. Find an idea that’s worth shouting about.

Using your noggin

The board game Cranium is like a piece of software, allowing the players to partake of some 14 activities (including drawing, spelling, etc) and providing all sorts of “functionality.” This is no surprise, since company founders Richard Tait and Whit Alexander were emigres from the operating-system colossus Microsoft. Once of the New Economy, they had chosen to enter a dying industry. When they came out with Cranium in the late 1990s, the industry had not had a blockbuster for 15 years. Even in success, they kept to the guerilla formula, numbering only 14 employees at the end of 2001, all motivated by the mantra CHIFF: “clever, high quality, innovative, friendly, and fun.” (For more, see Julie Bick’s story on Cranium in INC., January 1, 2002). Indeed, we need more such migrant workers from the knowledge economy with the capacity to transform America’s dying industries, operating as guerillas, and, most importantly, animated by a distinctive set of values.

Put some smart people together with real values and something good is bound to happen. That’s how to stay up.

For more information about William Dunk Partners, visit the Global Province: www.globalprovince.com