Take this with a grain of salt, these are thoughts; some half-baked, some are chewy brownies, some are cake brownies and some are burnt. That said, any journey worth taking, begins with one step; what they didn’t tell you was that each step arrived at the destination in a different state of probability.
Business is Mutual Interest
One of the earlier articles was titled “Getting Ahead of the Business”, but I didn’t really address what that business really was. What am I really here to do? What exactly is my role here? I propose that our business, no matter if it is shoes, apparel, technology, psychology, healthcare or simply painting, is mutual interest in a cluster of behaviors or activities that our nervous systems end up specializing in.
Our business is mutual interest…
Along with “Where did we come from?” (I’ll save this for another post), this question, “What am I here for?”, is the perennial question everyone asks about life itself, why not about our work? Does not our work merely shadow the tesseract of reality we call life? Every moment we spend increasing the resolution of the question itself, increases the resolution of the product we produce from it: knowledge and wisdom. From knowledge and wisdom come the ability to summarize thought and abbreviate action.
So let’s start with a dose of Etymology, courtesy Etymoline.com:
“business (n.) – Old English bisignes (Northumbrian) “care, anxiety, occupation,” from bisig “careful, anxious, busy, occupied, diligent” (see busy (adj.)) + -ness. Middle English sense of “state of being much occupied or engaged” (mid-14c.) is obsolete, replaced by busyness…” and the entry ends.
Yes, that’s it to business, that’s all there is to know; your work, is your business. Now throw others into the mix and suddenly it is a mutual care, a mutual anxiety, a mutual occupation. Welcome to the work of life… growth, now it’s time to put down some roots.
Mutual Interest is Thinking Deeply
At the heart of this mutual interest is the fact that we are animals. We move matter (m), energy (e) and probability (p) over time (t) and space (s). We are, like ants, but can see further and effect change deeper. In your daily work, what are you pushing around? Most likely it will be information, but if you break it down, information is just a pattern of energy which impresses on the nervous system to produce a probable response. Thinking is relatively cheap compared to moving matter, your biological nervous system is extremely efficient, but remember, if you move your body, you are moving matter, so I would suggest thinking deeply over moving deeply in any business endeavor.
Thinking Deeply is Entropic Chess
We are sharing an experience of mutual interesting movements of m, e and p. We are quite literally playing a game of entropy together, a kind of entropic chess. That’s all business really ever was, is and will be. Economics is about the production, consumption and transfer of resources (m, e, p, t, s), so every one engaged in business should understand at least some aspect of the problem economics was invented to solve. Our mutual interest depends on it and ultimately our mutual interest in social orders as well.
Thinking Deeply is Iterative
Deep thinking is built on iteratively approaching perspectives of reality. For example, we approach software development like this in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. You literally drive by a problem and solution it multiple times. The first time to delivery is quick, low cost and gets the job done; no frills, just be the most effective. The second time, you might tweak or modify to reduce the cost of a user to produce, consume or transfer something or increase the value of the same. This provides value in the comparison between an earlier or remote experience, and a later one. This is the value of thinking deeply, and we get compensated for it; time is money.
Thinking Deeply is Revelatory
Deep thought is what empowers realization; realizations which work to maximize the amount of work not done such that resources are conserved either by yourself, others or ever larger herds of entropy. Thought, while the nervous system is most metabolically expensive at rest, is quite powerful in its ability to penetrate the reality it experiences and offer a more simplified shadow of a complex perspective. From there it can and will trigger realizations that can, in many cases, reduce repetitive, expensive or wasteful movements; your mileage may vary on revelations but with some discipline, it is well worth the cost of admission.
Thinking Deeply is Agile
Plans will change as reality changes; an earlier realization may be revisited and met with a new realization. This is the fundamental reason why Agile is agile. The best business is the business that uses deep thinking in flight; a kind of on-the-fly realization machine. This takes skill, but is worth building, but requires a tremendous amount of discipline in balancing restarts, refactors, pivots, change modifications, updates, patches and context switches that consume time, money and resources. Deep thinking needs to compare path distances (values) to a probable future’s value; we call this evaluation compressing time and in some cases space.
Mutual Interest is Acting Lightly
So here we are with a deeply iterative fractal nature of business and we realize that we are all playing one great big Jenga Puzzle together. This is where we realize, that if movement is expensive, we should execute lightly.
Executing lightly is minimizing entropy.
Execute lightly is another more efficient way of saying, be valuably efficient. Efficient is not standing on your desk and shouting, “let’s get back to work,” it is a single conserved gesture whereby the team gets back to work with minimal resource consumption. Executing lightly minimizes the conversion of order into chaos. It minimizes the amount of matter and energy not convertible to the work’s output. In Agile “Maximizing the Amount of Work Not Done” is a very useful mantra to live by; it is what, if we applied it to society as a whole, we probably should aim at.
Mary Oliver said aptly in The Journey, “determined to save, the only life that you could save.” Don’t stop here with executing lightly — roll up your sleeves and see beyond the Gartner Magic Quadrant of Vision & Execution to this place called leadership. Leadership is efficiently getting that ship of your personal life, your home life, your business, your team, your clients, your client’s teams and individuals and your extended social networks to a better destination sooner rather than later and what better way than to act lightly.
Acting Lightly in Stereotypes
Thinking itself can be made more efficient, so using agile on stereotypes, language and linguistics itself is important to act lightly in communication. These stereotypes are crystallized Public Opinion aided in form by herd mentality with or without the poking and prodding of Public Relations, you are your own PR council for efficiency. If you use twenty minutes to explain something that could have taken five, you’re just training that twenty minutes into the herd’s vernacular.
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Acting Lightly Allows Agility
To act lightly allows nimbleness and the ability to pivot quickly, it is what allows a battalion of soldiers to march and with a short command, pivot the entire formation’s march 180 degrees. It’s what allows a meeting to be called short once a decision is made. It’s what allows the team to see a new opportunity while allowing forward momentum to deliver a more expedient delivery while pivoting to the new opportunity. It’s what keeps us on our toes and able to respond to change.
Overall, I usually compress this entire article into two words “Compress Time”. And only then do I introduce probability in more detail and science is only scratching the surface of this animal. We compress time to get to a certain order of probability and we compress time around all the flows into that future state so that it arrives sooner rather than later. We are literally editing space and time and that is what the measure of entropy allows us to see how effective we are at doing it.
Compressing Time is Summarizing Thinking and Acting
Write something about where you want to go or what you want to become, anything, and now edit it. Look at it! It looks good right? Like you could frame it, if it’s not frameable, throw it away and start over. That’s your perspective of that place in space or place in time, it probably is a mere shadow of what you thought.
Now that you have this framed beauty, rewind over all the edits and ask yourself, was there also a less dramatic way to get to what you ended up with? That’s leadership; it’s not looking to be perfect, it’s looking to continually improve. Whether it is leading matter out of a niobium mine or designing software to display a line of shoes on a website, our job is to compress time.
What is a future state of probability you’d like to achieve and how does one help “move the plot of the story forward” either through actors or environments to arrive at that future state? These are the questions to ask and the questions science is asking about the world itself; we will get there, but only if many of us are exposed to it, think about it and one day realize that we live on a new surface we are just seeing the grasses and dirt of — probability.
And that friends — is how you, as an individual contributor, manager, leader or board member thinks deeply, acts lightly and all while using what the nervous system gave you since birth — welcome to life. Now, let’s get to business; the clock is ticking.
It is important to note that sometimes to extract energy from matter; you will need to increase entropy. Use wisely and as a martial artist, this is a very advanced skill. Extracting motion from an individual that stands motionless is not the easiest to learn, but it can be done. This also, is part of leadership, and it allows one to compress time even further by expanding space behind and contracting it ahead; aka: warp drive.