Understanding the gravity of the (business) situation

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Gravity is generated by objects that have mass.   The greater the mass, the stronger the pull of gravity.  The stronger the pull, the more it influences everything within it’s reach.  We float weightlessly when there is no gravity.   We are like immovable boulders when there is a lot gravity.

The longer a business is around the more likely it is to accumulate mass.  The mass accumulates in the form of people, processes, culture, habits, inventory, customers, etc.  As mass accumulates, so does the pull of gravity.  The pull of gravity effects the business’ ability to respond and adapt quickly.  Innovation becomes difficult.  The ability of to change quickly is reduced.

I was reading Tim Harford‘s book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure last week.   He talks about how all successes are the product of an evolutionary process.

Here’s an example, Tim discusses in the book.  One of the main reasons the Soviet Union fell wasn’t Communism.  It was centrally run economy that killed (literally) innovation.  In the U.S.S.R, the plan was the plan.  Any effort to revise the plan was an act of treason.  Choice and differentiation did not exist.  The economy did not adapt.  It could not evolve.  The fittest economic solution could emerge in the face of non-competition.  The economy atrophied and died.  The Soviet Union fell in the shadow of its economic shell (If you want to argue that it was Communism that was the flaw, see: China).

Businesses, organizations, even economies fail when they fail to allow failure.

It’s hard for people to take risks today.   They are afraid of losing their job, getting in trouble, being rejected, not getting a raise.   Fear creates either inaction or reactionary (backwards) action.  Neither produce adaptive results.   Fear produces gravity.

The longer an organization exists, the greater the chance that gravity keeps people in orbit around what the organization was.  The organizational gravity exerts itself on it’s members.   They spin around in orbit, unaware of the influence of the organization they revolve around.

You can’t escape the physical law of gravity.  You can escape the gravity of a business, a group of friends, a political party.  It takes awareness.  It takes a willingness to take a risk.  The risk of being excluded.  The risk of being wrong.  The risk of failure.  The risk of rejection.  Risk is what’s required to move forward.

It’s time to start moving toward what will be.  Or we will live in the shadow of our economic shell.

How do you let gravity of an organization, a business, a family or a country limit your range of action?   What assumptions do you make that creates a false gravity for you?

Maybe it’s time to do something differently.  Maybe it’s time to fail forward.  Maybe it’s time to understand the gravity of your situation.  Maybe it’s time to break free.


* Thank you to those who allowed me to take liberties with the law of gravity.  I know that my definitions are imprecise.


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