Being involved in the startup scene, or any business environment, there is a constant pull between the forces of production. A pull for power and control. The desire for one party to feel as though they are the input that matters, the major resource of creating something cool, desired and valuable. The idea creator, versus the coder, versus the salesman, versus the marketer, versus the capital provider… they all have a unique and special relationship with the output that makes them rightly feel as though they are the input that really matters. The input that makes it all possible.
But here’s an allegory worth considering.
We plant the seed of a lemon tree. We place it in the soil. We ensure it’s in a place that will receive enough sunlight. We water it frequently. We give it mulch and fertilizer. We stake it for stability to avoid the strong winds from breaking it. We attend to it daily. We are patient. We hope it bears fruit… Actually, we are certain it will bear fruit. For this belief enables us to find the energy to keep attending to our investment.
So what is more important? The seed, the soil, the nutrients, the sun, the water or the attention? None of them.
Without all of it, there will be none of it.
Instead of making claims to being the catalyst of creation, we should be thankful that we are part of a rich eco-system. A system from which he output we can all benefit from.
Ideas are like organic matter. If we keep them out of view, out of the light, away from external influence, then all we are really doing is reducing their potential. We are taking away the essential nutrition that could make them thrive grow, and bare fruit.
I read a great quote today which I thought was worth sharing:
“There is a recognition dawning that the repetitive linear system which controls work and the worker is no longer profitable. Consequently, the presence of the soul is now welcome in the workplace. The soul is welcome because it is the place where the imagination lives.”
What I like about this is the reference to profit, and that linear systematic work isn’t profitable. If I think about every startup I’ve ever been involved with the real profit has come from the excitement and variety of the work. Internal profit rather than financial. And so my soul has been enriched.
On this earth…
we are all born as creative
we are all born as emotional
we are all born as caring
we are all born as compassionate
we are all born as inquisitve
we are all born as adventurers
we are all born as ‘entrepreneurs’
Our world tries as hard as it can to hide these ‘in built’ features from us. It scares us, no ‘scars us’ into ignoring our given instincts.
We ‘as entrepreneurs’ must do everything we can to get them back. To be as nature intended.
Competition is eternally existential. We compete for love, money, attention, fame, wealth, recognition, and sometimes, we even compete for food. Turns out humans aren’t the only species who must to compete to survive. All living things must do it. Even trees in a deep forest compete for sunlight by growing as quickly as possible forgoing width for height.
What I find most interesting about competition is how we or any being chooses to do it. When a competitor catches us unaware, they usually achieve this through using some form of subterfuge. Like growing in a smaller segment of the market. Focusing on a neglected geography. And the really smart competitors disguise what they are doing so you don’t even see them coming. A little like Google has done to Microsoft who was overly focused on the ‘desktop’, while the world was moving to web app’s and gathering and storing of information externally.
I noticed this phenomenon first hand recently. My business was moving along swimmingly (which in this case is my tomato plantation). As you can see from the photo below. My Roma’s looked healthy and almost ready for the picking:
But upon closer inspection a competitor had been eating away at my market for quite a long time without me noticing. Once I turned around the tomato to inspect the back side of them – I was devastated to find my competition. They caught me napping and had a very big impact on my market share. As can be seen here:
How did they manage this?
- The caterpillar was smart enough to attack on the reverse side out of view.
- His color is exactly the same as the tomato proving an excellent camouflage.
- He waited till the market was already developed (by me) and the tomatoes had a reasonable size and were worth attacking – in this case risking his life over!
- In true terrorist fashion he penetrated the market at one entry point and ate it inside out. That is, the caterpillar was so deep inside the market, he was completely out of view.
None of this was by mistake. It has been driven by millennia of evolutionary survival and subsequent genetic coding. Nature is smart.
The implications for startups are many. When we start out to compete, the best thing we can do is replicate what nature does. Stay out of harms way. Stay small and unseen. Try and gain some momentum and size. If we’re lucky will have built our share of the market and be ensconced before anyone notices.
(FYI – I picked the tomatoes, and placed them in another location of the garden to let the caterpillars fight another day – they may just leave some seeds which will flourish next season!)
I noticed this morning that a particular area of my box hedge isn’t growing as well as other areas. See the two photos below.
In order to remedy the situation I thought about what the different things I could do:
- Ensure the poor performing area was getting enough water
- Make sure the soil wasn’t poisoned in that particular area of the garden
- Remove the weeds from the periphery
- Add some fertiliser to the struggling area
- Aerating the soil with a hoe
- Ensure the area is getting enough sun
In fact, I’ll try the methods above. What I wont do is ‘remove’ the box hedge. I really need it because it forms part of the garden perimeter. It provides the required symmetry. It’s an integral part of the garden. I will give it the extra attention it deserves, and talk to it. I won’t pretend it will fix itself, because I know that is just a fantasy.
So, why do we take the opposite view with our staff / employees or business partners? We rarely ask first what we can do, and most often just ‘cut them out’, get rid of them, or even chastise their performance, before we look at the reasons for it. Maybe they:
- Aren’t getting enough cash to do their part?
- Maybe their part of the organisation has structural issues?
- Maybe they have non functional ‘hangers on’ stealing time & resources?
- Maybe we need to invest in some training or programs to boost the area?
- Maybe we need to give them more space & freedom to perform?
- Maybe we are not providing enough reward & recognition?
You’ve probably noticed how many of our people problems have strong analogies to my box hedge. In fact, both nature and people, need nurturing.
Steve – founder rentoid.com