November 20, 2023

Change your story, change your future

When you first start your business, it’s all about you. Your expertise, your way of doing things, your ambitions, your lifestyle.

Then you bring in people to help you, and now it’s about us. Our expertise, our way of doing things, our ambitions and lifestyles.

But in these stages of a business we’re thinking about specific individuals. It’s hard to separate Joe or Jane from what they do in the business – even harder to separate yourself from what you do.

But, if you want to change the future of your business – scale it, leave it, sell it or pass it on – you have to think of your business as something separate from yourselves, as a thing in its own right.

Once you’re taken that step, the question is what kind of thing is your business?

Is it a machine? If so what does it produce? Money? Happiness?


“The activities of a machine are determined by its structure” Fritjof Capra

A fixed machine that can only do the same things over and over again? I don’t think that’s the story you want.

Could it be a bureaucracy, a hierachy of roles? If so, who does that bureaucracy really serve? The boss? The people working in it? The customer? The shareholder?


“In a bureaucracy, human beings are instruments, employed by an organization to create products and services.” Gary Hamel

A machine where the interchangeable parts are human beings? I don’t think that’s the story you want either.

Or is it an organism?


but the relationship is reversed in organisms – organic structure is determined by it’s processes.Fritjof Capra

An organic system, run by humans, whose shape is dictated by what it does.

That story might work.

And, since “the most successful forms start with identifying what is on the outside that they need to
interact with and then working their way back into finding the form that best suits their external purpose.”
, for me, it’s a system for making and keeping promises, made by humans to other humans:

And because it’s organic, and the processes may change in response to changes in its external environment, it automatically becomes a humanocracy “the vehicle human beings use to better their lives and the lives of those they serve.” Gary Hamel

In other words, once you’ve taken the individuals out of your business, so you can think about it differently, you have to find a way to put them back in, so that every individual human being who ever works in your business can bring their whole self to bear on bettering their lives and the lives of the people they serve – without having to learn what to do from scratch every time.

My model of what a business is, isn’t the only way to tell this kind of story, but it is a good one.

It works.

Discipline makes Daring possible.