A new business is a new system, Part II

Here come peas!
Photo credit: Digital Sextant

The important thing

The important thing, is that the idea you have, of the business (or something else) you could create, could quite possibly be a great thing. An amazing thing. A wonderful thing, that could bring you happiness. Or, creative fulfillment. Or, money. Or, fame, or whatever.

And it could to these things, even if you doubt that it could, even if you doubt that so much that you don’t even feel the courage to admit that you are thinking about it.

And actually, a whole bunch of other things, that you could think up, but that you have just been too scared to think of, could also do these things.

Yep. They really could.


They could not. The great idea that you think would be wonderful and amazing, could turn out not to work, or not to be amazing. Or, maybe it’s fairer (and less discouraging) to say, that when the idea encounters life, it will morph and change, turning from a seed, to a sprout, to a big, healthy plant. And along the way, truthfully, it changes.

It interacts with the air, and water, and sun, and soil, and adapts, grows, changes. (All systems that interact with other systems grow and change in response to those systems.)

What is here now, and what you could create

There’s a tendency of our minds, as social creatures, to see what is here now, as normal. As somehow sensible, or at least predictable. As eternal.

For example, Seth Godin really impressed this on me recently in Linchpin, when he made the case that we have all been deeply indoctrinated into a factory mindset, as a culture–so that the important thing is that we all accept the idea that it is right, good, and proper, to regulate our time in long blocks of uniform production, during predictable periods, and winnow out the majority of our uniqueness, for future rewards.

His argument is that this made a lot of sense for producing workers for a factory, but that now, it makes no economic sense at all, and it actually makes economic sense to do what you love. (I highly recommend the book.)

In short, the perception of the mind–as an organ of social functioning–is to assume that what is here, is what is supposed to be here. Or, what is likely to be here. From a living systems view, this is probably a function of homeostasis. It maintains momentum and cohesion.

“homeostasis is the property of a system, either open or closed, that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition.” — Wikpedia

(To the extent that we were not acting deliberately, it may well be that these patterns and systems that make up our current life were actually just the response to earlier reactions by other people.)

To maintain coherency of form, systems tend to respond to the flow of information in ways that counteract any deviation from their established patterns of interaction. Systems thinkers call this interchange between system and environment “negative feedback” because it reduces deviation. Such responses change the system’s relationship to the environment to restore conditions to a tolerable range. When we become overheated, for example, negative feedback loops within our body create perspiration, the evaporation of which cools our bodies back to within our optimal temperature range, reducing the deviation of our temperature from this norm. Negative feedback regulates every aspect of systemic functioning; it essentially defines and delimits every system, in complex and interpenetrating webs. [Molly Young Brown]

To create new possibilities requires imagination–modeling things in the mind, prototyping them–and then, developing these prototypes as more and more concrete models, and modifying these models as you get feedback as per how they interact with the systems you mean them to interact with.

All innovation (and that’s the word business books like to use nowadays–innovation–for some reason–I guess because they think of it as “how we could make more money”) involves changing something.

It feels safe to think of things that have been done before, and so people mostly do that.

People who create new things tend to enjoy risk, although people who create new things that are successful also enjoy interacting with things that exist.

Virtually all of the conversations you will have today will probably be with people who spend virtually all their time responding to what is–this field of what happens to already be here (see above). So, that means that if you do not deliberately do something different, 99.99% of your interactions with others will continue to reinforce that homeostasis. This is commonly expressed as :

This is the way things have always been done.

(Sure, we’re innovators in some ways now, particularly technology, but that’s only one spectrum of innovation.)

So, there exists this huge (unlimited?) sphere of possible systems that you could create, that could interact with the existing systems, to bring you different things.

You could create a system to funnel money to yourself. Or, you could create a system to funnel money to other people who need it. Or, a system to increase the amount of creativity that is allowed to be expressed in public schools. Or anything.

Kiva created a new system to funnel money to third world entrepreneurs as micro-loans, which are used as micro-capital, a form of leverage to create long-term, internally-propelled growth. They based this on Muhammad Yunus‘ Grameen Bank, which began doing this in Bangladesh.

This is just one example.

Before it existed, it didn’t.

If the creators of Kiva hadn’t created it, it wouldn’t exist.

But because it does exist, now it seems possible.

Things seeming possible is very important, because somehow, the way our minds work, we don’t really like to do things that don’t seem possible. (Even though many of them are.)

Real innovators keep creating things that don’t seem possible, until they are. While this means they are good at imagining what isn’t now, it also means they are good at working to make that not-as-yet-existing thing interact successfully with what is here now.

In Part III, I will talk about some of the different qualities (or patterns, or subsystems) that a business needs to have to succeed (interact successfully with the existing systems). [Part III]

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