Enlightened Conflict

a non formula business world

March 23rd, 2016

 escape the ordinary business order non formula




“You cannot use someone else’s fire; you can only use your own.

And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe you have it.”



Audre Lorde




“There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”




H. L. Mencken








This could be about either business or Life … but let me stick with business for today.


I have worked within so many industries and seen so many different businesses I can’t really keep them all straight.

formula confused none

And maybe because of that breadth of experience I have realized that there is no formula for success that is easily transferable.

What this means in a practical sense is that I don’t have a formula to offer when I walk into a new business <because I would have to have dozens and my brain doesn’t work that way>.


Yet, everyone, every business, seeks a formula for success. This can be frustrating <for the business and for me>.


And they do this despite the fact they know in their heart of hearts that most business situations are contextual and dipping into some past developed formula more likely than not is simply not going to replicate whatever had happened in the past that made the formula look so appealing.


And, yet, again and again … businesses seek some elusive formula to apply to their business – to start it, to make it more efficient or even on how to plan tactics.


Here is what I know from having walked through hundreds of business front doors.


Business seems to demand order from its thinkers, doers and leaders.


Think about it.


Inevitably no matter what conversation you are having … innovation, ideation, process, production or even organizational culture you will find yourself mired in some aspect of ‘order.’


And we wonder why there is so much angst and conflict in business? That is your explanation. The world is not a naturally orderly place and yet we constantly seek to put it in order.


Day in and day out almost everything a business does is about finding some order in a world that demands non order like thinking.

order chaos consistent hugh

This is a crazy, sometimes stupefying, discussion of a desire for a winning formula … and a refusal to follow a formula at exactly the same time.


I cannot tell you how many times I have been pressed by a business to show proof that an idea, or something, has worked in the past … only to have another past ‘formula’ be rejected as ‘not relevant for us.’


Frankly, the inconsistency with regard to using something in the past is maybe the most consistent discussion I have in business.





There are certainly some guiding principles that can help insure, or limit, your stupidity moving forward … but formulas don’t exist.


And what constantly still catches me a little off guard when formulas are being requested <or some derivative of a formula> is that we all know each business, each business situation and each organization is at minimum slightly unique.

Every relatively smart & experienced business person knows this.


Therefore a past formula runs the risk of trying to put a square peg into a round hole.




But then we inevitably slide into the infamous discussion of “let’s just use the parts that apply to us & our situation.”


This is another ‘formula but not-formula’ head scratcher.


Most past successes are a confluence of factors intertwined into some uniquely messy tangled ball of string. It looks messy <albeit far too many business consultants portray it as simple, or linear, or anything but tangled as they

entanglement of nuances

straighten the string out to show a flawed construct> and it is … well … messy.


Therefore trying to pull it apart and using one aspect as a “successful foundation for our future success” <see: “formula”> is flawed logic.


There are rarely, very rarely, neat & plausible solutions to what a business faces in the here & now. If you are shown a ‘formula for success’ and it looks neat and it seem plausible … it is most likely wrong.


What I am now going to say is going to sound painfully inefficient.


A business has to create its own way of doing things. It has to create its own formula.

It can certainly contain some aspects of things that have been done in the past but those are simply ingredients from which you will build your own formula.


And, to be clear, if you start bolting together different formulas to create a successful business … you are simply creating a Frankenstein which the village people are going to end up killing with simple pitchforks & torches.


Your business formula for success will have to be yours.


And, yes, you do need some type of formula. Business does demand some order.

Without it there is only chaos.



‘Borrowing’ order <see: “formulas”> seems like a nifty short cut to minimizing risk as well as creating a foundation on which to build upon.


Unfortunately, it is often not that simple for a couple of reasons.


<1> Rigidity. Using someone else’s formula is like inserting an immovable part. It is a rigid component inflexible to any organizational adaptations … or external adaptations. Customize the formula and you run the likely risk that it fails <because a successful formula is a formula for a specific need>. Leave the formula rigid and you run the likely risk the organization loses some flexibility to respond to external circumstances.


<2> External adaptations. Because the business environment in which a business competes in is a fairly unorderly world and order constantly chafes with disorder. Formulas in today’s business world look significantly different than formulas of the past in that the past had more rigid aspects and the present has more fluidity.




I would like to note that last point as possibly the biggest struggle a business leader has in managing a business – getting comfortable with the constant chafing and recognizing when it is no longer simple chafing and instead a real open wound.



In the end.


Let me end where I began … you cannot use someone else’s fire; you can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe you have it.


Most businesses have their successful formula already in hand. More often than not they don’t need to look elsewhere for a formula. They just cannot see it yet … they cannot see they have their own fire.formula success steps


That’s what I do.

Painfully, but what I do. Make them see their fire and believe in it.


It comes down to assessing the ingredients that reside in the business owner’s mind, in the business culture and what the organization itself is capable of … and building that fire.


And even then … rarely is there some simple formula which becomes their elixir for success. It becomes almost like the core molecule on which additional molecules can be attached or removed as the business organism interacts with that wacky disorderly business environment.


Success in business is never easy. It only looks easy when looking at someone else from afar or looking to the past.


While businesses demand order the business environment conducts itself in a less than orderly fashion. That sentence right there explains why there is no formula for success and that we have a non-formula world.

Enlightened Conflict