A new business is a new system, Part I
When you start thinking in systems terms, your thinking becomes kind of non-linear, and sometimes it’s hard to “just get to the point.” It’s like the difference between a bulleted list and a mind map. But once you weave together all these ideas, you end up with very new and interesting ideas, that change how you think, and can be very useful in different ways.
So here we go!
A business is a system
Out of all the possible combinations of ideas, of what could possibly work in the world, we are living within this small–very small–subset of those possible realities.
If you think of the world as a vast series of interlocking systems and subsystems, out of all the possible systems, that is what we are living in.
In the economic and business sense of things, these are social systems, that interact with physical systems. Once the systems get going, they have a momentum that keeps them going (if they are viable, etc.–see living systems theory). They run along, until they run along. Until they don’t; and then, they stop.
The gear analogy
It is like, the world is a series of interlocking gears, that form this cool machine, that is turning, turning, because it’s turning. (How effective, or helpful, or destructive; how deliberate or non-deliberate; how safe, or dangerous–those are discussions for another time.)
Now, when you create a successful new business, it is like you are creating a new gear, and you have to design that gear so that its teeth interlock with one of the existing gears; and then, you have to position it just right to get the teeth of the existing gear to mesh with the teeth of your gear.
And then, your gear has to be shaped right, and of course, it has to turn something you want it to turn, and not just turn around and around in space, pointlessly. And of course, you don’t want it to turn something you don’t want it to turn, because it can do that, too.
(Thanks, Matt, for helping spawn this part of the idea.)
When we create something new, what we are doing is creating a new system that interoperates with the existing system (like the gear idea). (I should study living systems theory, to see how it applies here–it looks at all the qualities of a thing that make it a viable living system.) Examples would include:
- The Grameen Bank
Etc., etc., etc.
It is also possible to create systems that operate pretty much on their own, and so we don’t care if they interact with the greater system. Examples of this include:
- Artists who create their art for their own purposes. They don’t care if they ever become famous, or make money with their art. (So, they don’t have to interoperate with the fame systems, or the wealth systems, of our society.)
- Someone who sits and plans, forever and ever, their great business ideas, but never launches them to the world.
Some of these things would be deliberate–the person does not care if their thing interacts with the greater system in question. Some would be tragic–the person could never make their dream a reality, because of fear.
Or, sometimes we just create without any organization at all, getting nowhere. Examples of this include:
- People who just spin their wheels, doing random things, getting stoned etc.
- Every time we just sit around without a real direction, or maybe let the emotions or dramas of others direct our thoughts.
- Watching TV.
Again, some of these would be tragic failures after countless attempts, and some could be perfectly pleasurable and harmless amusement.
To succeed, you business idea–a great new way of distributing diapers, organic nail polish–has to interact successfully with the systems you need it to interact with. All kinds of things apply here:
- If you want it to succeed, it is going to have to interact properly with the greater systems already out there. (If you want wealth, you’ll have to interact with the wealth systems. If you want fame, the fame systems. For example, you can produce great coding work as an administrative assistant for an architectural firm, and get nowhere–that’s my own life example! I was not interacting with the right system.)
- If you want it to not take over your life, you’d better make sure you’re building the system you want to build.
- You can learn from all the existing systems, as examples of things that work (even if you don’t like how they work, or the results they produce. WalMart? Wendy’s? Good business models!)
- Just because a system doesn’t exist yet, that in no way implies that it can’t exist.
- Just because a system doesn’t exist yet, that in no way implies that it can exist.
- Just because you think a system should exist, doesn’t mean it can exist.
- Just because you haven’t created it, or haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it can’t exist.
- Just because you believe it can exist, doesn’t mean it can exist (at least, given the exact qualities and parameters you think it will need to have).
In Part II, I’ll talk about other aspects of what this means, in terms of creating new things. [Part II]