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The paradox of most tightly-knit communities is that they have an internal culture.

And that culture often makes it difficult for a new person to join. It’s hard to have insiders if you don’t have outsiders. This is true for guilds of copy editors, fans of anime or branches of science.

The key transition point for any cause or tribe or movement that seeks to grow is to shift from an insular desire to keep things as they are to a willingness–or better, a desire–to water things down by getting bigger.

It’s hard to have it both ways.

Everyone else is

Well, not everyone. Just most people.

When you do something that everyone else is doing, you’re likely to get what everyone else is getting.

But in almost every population, “everyone” leaves out the people who go first, who change things, who are weird and who challenge the status quo. That’s an option, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Mass culture gets us more mass culture. It’s not the only choice.

Data, information and decisions

Data is everywhere, but turning it into information isn’t free.

It takes focus, effort, consultation and time.

More information is only useful if it helps you make a decision. Knowing the temperature on Saturn isn’t useful. Knowing it to even more accuracy is less useful. That’s because we’re not making any decisions that involve the temperature on another planet.

We’re surrounded by data that our spreadsheets or networks or cohorts seem to want us to be aware of. How many people clicked yesterday, or what someone wrote in a comment, what a backlist book sold or the foot traffic in that store vs. this store.

But if you’re not going to use the data to make a decision, don’t spend the time to expose yourself to it. It’s resistance at work.

If you can’t do anything with the data, it’s never going to be information.

Five beats

When we’re close to an answer, there are two easy paths–name it, right now, and move on. Or avoid the answer and the responsibility that comes with it and stall.

The best path is the third one. Wait for five beats.

Kneejerk is not an admirable trait.

A few breaths before we rip into someone. A few questions before we issue a diagnosis. A chance to do a bit more research or consultation.

And then, yes, we have to name it. No stalling.

Five beats of tension open the door for connection, accuracy and insight. And then we ship.

The post-industrial collision

Many knowledge-economy employees say that the main cause of dissatisfaction at work is lack of agency. Lack of control over our time and our decisions and our output is demeaning. It turns people into cogs.

As the nature of work changes, innovation and small groups are adding far more value than the race to the bottom of industrial control can.

So people are getting what they asked for. Autonomy. Responsibility instead of authority. The chance to speak up and be heard. Most of all, the opportunity to be on the hook.

Not surprisingly, some people, particularly if they’ve been indoctrinated into the industrial mindset, don’t like this.

They can’t ask, “just tell me what to do.” The search for an A, the hope to be picked by someone in charge, the desire for perfect–it’s gone. So is the deniability that comes with following instructions.

Be careful what you hope for.

“…somebody else will.”

This is a great excuse for racing to the bottom.

Corporations with power go ahead and take advantage of customers. “Well, if we don’t do it, a competitor will.”

The public markets don’t require companies to throw out their principles to succeed. In fact, they reward companies that do the opposite.

People exploit vulnerabilities in systems, or cut a little close to one edge or another. Because, after all, it’s a competitive world, and if they don’t, someone else will.

Not really.

Human culture has a long history of standards being set by people who refuse this line of reasoning. And as a result of these standards, somebody else doesn’t.

But where are the secret recipes?

Over the years, I’ve been sharing recipes as pages here on the blog, but never posting about them… you only got the link if I sent it to you.

Well, your wait is over.

For those seeking non-obvious but delicious and light-on-their-feet recipes, here you go:

The ones who didn’t help

If 2% of a population takes coordinated action, it makes a difference. If 5% do, it can change everything.

This simple math also means that most people rarely do anything. Perhaps they don’t care. Perhaps they’re afraid to speak up and commit. And perhaps it’s simply easier to go along for a free ride.

Of course it hurts when friends and colleagues we thought we could count on shirk and hide. But everyone has their own narrative, their own issues, their own fears. We can say, “if I were you,” but we’re not them, they are.

When we focus on the ones who didn’t help, we’re undermining our work. It’s a distraction and a disservice.

Shun the non-believers. Ignore the well-meaning but unmoved. Instead, we have the chance to find and connect and celebrate the people who care enough to make a difference.

Toward better.

Resilient markets

The “free market” is a bit of a myth. Other than some board games, it doesn’t exist in real life.

We eagerly regulate things like dangerous goods, fraud, insider trading, the warranty of merchantability, trademarks, dumping poison in the water supply, selling heroin to kids, etc.

All of these boundaries are designed to create more resilient markets. Markets that serve newcomers as well as insiders. Markets that eventually serve the culture.

We’re not very good at it, but trying is the only way forward. The right question isn’t, “how do we remove regulations?” It might be, “how do we make this more resilient over time?”

Defining the enemy

Some situations seem to call for an opponent.

It might be our personality, the structure of the engagement or the way we’ve been taught to behave, but having an enemy seems to focus individuals and groups.

For fifty years, America decided that the USSR was the enemy, and spent a great deal of time and money and attention maintaining that threat.

For many people, the boss is the enemy, the controlling managerial authority, the opponent to be bested in a fight over work, effort and passion.

Or it might simply be the hockey team we’re skating against tonight.

Pick your enemies, pick your future.