Can ordinary people like you and I start a powerful trend that impacts the local economy? I believe so. I’ll tell you why.
In his epic book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell showcased how ideas spread: informal networks of trust. He showed how fashion trends develop, chronicled the rise of popular products, and blew my mind with a case study that resulted in a decrease New York City’s crime rate. Couldn’t small business owners use informal networks of trust to generate the kind of economic growth that benefits everyone?
His book got my wheels turning. The economy is stagnant. Business owners and workers are stressed out, struggling, and overwhelmed. Senior officials in government feel disenfranchised and powerless to change the system. What if growing the economy has less to do with business mechanics and politics and more to do with empowering people? What if personal growth as entrepreneurial leaders was a benchmark of success in a bigger game, an ambitious effort to add value through our businesses and impact lives? We’d be tearing down bureaucracy and removing barriers on all fronts.
Perpetual wealth as I see it is not about the wealthy one percent getting richer at the expense of the poor.
Perpetual wealth is about grassroots collaboration to build systems that empower the mavericks, renegades, underdogs, and scaredy-cats to find purpose and meaning in the work they do. Those who have not been understood or respected in the workplace may hold the key to developing systemic solutions to society’s biggest problems.
Perpetual wealth is what happens when more small business owners design systems of service that add value to people’s lives and propel their business forward. Big businesses are reengineering products and services to appeal to powerful social and environmental trends. Small players can get in on the action.
I believe the Possibility Process has the power to create healthy regional economies with many positive characteristics:
Wouldn’t you like to drive big change in your industry by being the kind of entrepreneur whose activities shape social, environmental, and economic opportunities?
Imagine the impact on local economies if a greater number of new businesses made it past the fragile start-up stage to become profitable ventures. As it stands, statistically speaking, three out of four will fail.
Imagine how much more money we’d have to invest if, instead of our taxes funding bureaucracy and political in-fighting, we could leverage innovative thinking and lean business strategy to convert social problems into profitable new business opportunities.
One thing I know for certain—a system underpins everything in the universe. Everything. Instead of depleting resources and exploiting people for personal gain, imagine how strong the economy could be if people’s work worlds were designed to enliven and empower them. That’s what I’m fighting for.
A lot has been written about the mechanics of business and business planning. Little has been written on how to use cutting-edge neuroscience, social influence, and the psychology of word of mouth to break free of the soul-sucking systems that hold people trapped at work.
Freedom—that’s what entrepreneurship means to me. Business is a vehicle to fulfill on what matters to you, remember? Don’t worry about being the next Bill Gates—focus on what brings you purpose and joy.
If you could free yourself of past limitations and operate consistently in the Possibility Zone, how much money could you earn? If you focused on your successes instead of your flops and flaws, what might you do that you’re not currently doing? If each of us set a goal to earn ten to twenty percent more by adding value to other people’s lives, the economic impact would be in the billions of dollars. Engaging people to help you achieve your bold vision will do more for your bottom line and the economy than any government spending initiative ever will.
Letting go of control runs deeper than delegating tasks. You need ground rules to establish trust—use the Code of Honour. Choose a project you’ve been putting off to test the Possibility Process on a small scale. Invite your team to add their passion and input into how the systems can be designed to produce the desired outcomes. But before you start, there’s one more thing you need to understand: congruence.
Congruence is the quality or state of being in harmony, agreement, or achieving compatibility across differing dimensions. Congruence is to systems what communication is to relationships. No matter how brilliant the idea, incongruence undermines effectiveness during execution. Congruence allows results to pass smoothly across all sixteen dimensions of the system: the visual, emotional, functional, and financial design preferences, which in turn must satisfy the four primary influencers of customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders. Congruence creates harmony or agreement across the full spectrum of the system.
Systemic imbalance in one area produces an unwelcome consequence in another. Misalignment is problematic, like driving on a flat tire. A quick fix in one area creates a problem elsewhere. We don’t hesitate to change a flat tire on our car, yet most businesses run flat every day.
Here’s an example of systemic imbalance. A national transportation company introduced mandatory employee drug testing. Instead of random drug testing, which keeps all employees on their toes, the company opted for drug testing (a) during the hiring process and (b) when an accident occurred on the job. The unintended consequence is failure to report minor injuries and safety infractions. In this workplace, keeping one another’s secrets has become the cultural norm among informal networks of workers and supervisors using drugs.
In Chapter 13, Kerplunk! Start a New Game, I described systems as structures to hold desired new behaviours in place. Systems of service have the benefit of giving people an experience, not just a transaction: They address the mass of the iceberg below the surface. Ultimately, you want every touchpoint to move customers to become loyal ambassadors of your brand. You may not reach this goal every time, but remember, if you shoot for the stars you may land on the moon.
If you’re reading this book, your results are probably not coming close to moon landings, and it all might seem overwhelming. I advise you to take systems leadership one step at a time.
Have the vision of an Entrepreneur, organize for success like a Manager, and apply the precision of a Technician. Carve time away from the day-to-day grind to think and act strategically.
Step 1. Treat your goal, your dream, as the result. Get crystal clear about what you want and why. Get your team on board to work backwards from that outcome. Stand in the shoes of your customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders. What do they care about? What series of actions need to happen to produce the intended result?
Think about the system instead of the tasks. Think about processes instead of personalities. Hold your attention there! You will know your systems are working when the process produces the desired result.
Step 2. With your team, set some goals. What would delight your customers, employees, suppliers, and lenders beyond anything you have ever done? What experiences would knock their socks off?
Systems design has five benchmarks or levels of performance:
Meeting your customers’ basic needs in a transaction is unlikely to generate loyalty. Adding your own special touches that surprise and delight will bring them back and leave them raving about you to others. Extend the same logic to your employees, suppliers, and lenders.
Step 3. Return to your current operations and your own perspective as business owner. What enhancements or modifications can you make, realistically, to produce those results?
Designing systems in partnership with staff takes the risk out of delegation. Work on letting go of control. Yes, this advice is counterintuitive to a lifetime of social conditioning. Our parents worked hard to rein us in and control our behaviour as children. Our teachers controlled the classroom and all the students in it. Then we entered the job market, where hierarchy was used to manage people’s actions.
Passion comes from pain—literally. The Latin origin of the word passion is to “suffer.” Most business owners have experienced hardship, loss, and disappointment. Many struggled in school. Feelings of inadequacy or resentment toward authority can for some become rocket fuel for business success. That’s why so many entrepreneurs are cut from the same cloth.
As business owners, we’ve got a lot to contribute to one another in terms of mentorship, skill development, personal resilience, and economic growth. Entrepreneurs can make a real difference in the world by externalizing pain and frustration in the form of products and services that add value to other people’s lives. Growth is inevitable when we lead, teach, and inspire the people around us to grow to new heights.
That is how you bottle and sell the essence of who you are.
The traditional focus on the mechanics of business is shallow and sterile. When the conditions are not right, people go through the motions at work but keep their ideas and natural abilities locked up tight. You’ll get the skills listed on their resume but never receive the full potential of their hearts and minds. Look beyond the allocation of human resources, physical assets, and intellectual property. People love sharing their gifts and talents—in the right environment, for the right reasons.
In my Uncle Bill’s day, people were part of something that mattered to them. Important information about each play was communicated through networks of trust. Internally motivated people led to higher production. Higher production resulted in tremendous profits.
You can achieve similar results and growth today simply by opening up opportunities for people throughout your company to participate in meaningful ways. Ways that matter to them and to you. Be intentional about discovering latent power and resourcefulness in people. You are surrounded by opportunities and under-utilized talent. Don’t waste them.
People are powerful and inspiring when they are loosely connected yet tightly aligned. Loosely connected through open, twoway communication. Tightly aligned by shared values, a common goal, and a big vision that no individual or department can accomplish on its own. That’s Balloon Management in a nutshell.
You’ve seen glimpses of that power on the news. People come together to help one another when there is a fire, a flood, or devastation of some kind. They choose to work selflessly and tirelessly for total strangers. Volunteers with no professional training, no prior experience, and no profit incentive come together to move mountains. Shared commitment makes the impossible become possible.
Most companies fail because emotional vitality, a critical component in the business design process, is left out. Too many owners and managers have a flawed ideology about what it means to be a leader. People are not assets to be deployed. We are emotional beings who are moved, touched, and inspired to action. Going it alone, exposing people’s weaknesses, and ignoring emotions in the workplace prohibit people from finding purpose and meaning in the work they do. Emotional resonance is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and collaboration.
We’ve come full circle. Now it’s your turn to create a safe, judgement-free space for your team to examine their workplace experiences in a new light. Share your knowledge and experiences, including your mistakes. Tell them about your personal leadership journey and support them in letting go of their reactionary habits.
You now have the tools to engage your people in a revolutionary game of growth. Nourish people to see them flourish. The six steps of the Possibility Process can turn your current business reality into your ideal future. Choose possibility, and it will find you in unexpected and unpredictable ways.
Be open using beginner’s mind, to not knowing the outcome.
Be prepared to stay present to emotions as you and your team resolve challenges, innovate solutions, and create exciting new opportunities. Buttons will get pushed. The biggest learning curve for leaders is trust and delegation. Self-awareness and Conscious Communication will make it easier to manage your discomfort as you innovate and collaborate, moving your team from the groan zone to the Possibility Zone.
Reach together for ideas that spark imagination and touch a chord in the hearts of the people your solutions are intended to serve. Only then can everyone create systems of service to reinforce new behaviours to a defined standard of excellence.
Everyone wins, in so many ways, when independent businesses prosper. Your company will reach its full potential when your people reach theirs. The possibility for that outcome begins and ends with you.
Remember: It doesn’t matter what I believe. It doesn’t matter what your parents, your boss, or your teacher said about you in the past. All that matters is that you believe you can achieve breakthrough success in business. If so, that’s the first small win to leverage.