Abundance and the TBR

If you’ve got a pretty good job (and I assume you do) that probably means that you get to do a fair amount of self-management. If you’re installing eyelets at a Nike factory, they measure your output to the tenth of a second. I’m not talking about that. I’m writing this for people who are given the freedom to solve problems or create opportunities at work.

Like most things, there’s a spectrum of approaches. In this case, I think the two ends of the spectrum are an approach of Abundance and an approach I call Technically Beyond Reproach (TBR).

Abundance means that you look at every problem spec and figure out how to make it bigger.
TBR tries to make it smaller.

Abundance means that you spend a lot of time imagining how you will overdeliver.
TBR means you start from the beginning making sure that the work you do will either meet spec or you’ll have a really good excuse.

Entrepeneurs have a hard time with the TBR approach, because it has never ever worked for them. VCs and customers and competitors give few bonus points for excuses, even really good ones, so the only approach that wins is the abundance one.

An abundant-approach employee shows up early so she won’t need the "train was late" excuse on the day of the presentation. The TBR employee gets a note from the Metro. (true story).

An abundant-approach minister grows his church from 200 families to 3,000 by constantly reinventing what he does all day. A TBR minister does a very good job of consoling the sick and writing sermons.

Is there something wrong with the TBR approach? It depends what you want. If you want to grow, TBR won’t get you there. (The Purple Cow was not about being garish or outlandish. It was, I know realize, about thinking abundantly). Yes, I probably want my airline pilot to be TBR, at least most of the time. But no, not the chef at the restaurant.

There are whole industries built around TBR thinking. The wedding business for example, charges extra so the bride and her mom will be blameless. The "top" colleges offer an expensive degree that is also beyond reproach, "Hey, it’s not my fault… I paid my dues, went to a great school…"

The fascinating thing about the transparency of the Net is that it makes it easy to measure the differences between the two approaches. There are a bazillion blogs, and technorati makes it easy to see which ones have popped. And those are? Those are the ones that didn’t follow the blogging manual, that didn’t diligently do what they were supposed to do, but instead, they were run with an abundance mindset. The blogger chose to answer a bigger question, in a bigger way.

I think what it comes down to is the first question you ask yourself when you see an opportunity or a challenge.

Is it, "How can I make this bigger, do it faster and change the outcome for all of us?"
or is it
"If this doesn’t work, will I get in trouble or will I be okay?"