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In a complex world, dominated by fake news and in which insulting seems to be the only answer, it is possible to succeed by applying Lean attitudes, building Trust through shared Value. It is not a general recipe, though, but the story of how I applied them together with a group of people who share a successful initiative with me.

Lean cobbler“The cobbler’s children go barefoot” is a famous proverb (and a cliché) that serves to indicate that a professional tends not to apply his art to himself (or those close to him). A cliché on the lack of congruence of many professionals (which tells how little professionals believe in the effects of their art).

Personally as a consultant I have always tried to use me as a case of the effectiveness of my practice. Why do it? Certainly to be consistent (using my practice on me is a proof)  and for marketing (if I do it and you call me, it works), but above all to verify its effectiveness.

I did this as an advisor for entrepreneurs (risking my small capital in the initiatives that I recommended), I did it as a marketer (promoting myself using the techniques that I recommended to my clients) and I do it today that I deal with strategy and business models .

To be able to operate succesfully in this global and competitive market it is necessary to keep constantly updated. So in recent years I have learned several new skills (design thinking, Lean manufacturing and Lean startup, LEGO® Serious Play®, U.Theory) that have taught me to be a facilitator, as well as an expert, trainer and coach.

They have also strengthened the deep conviction of the essential role of social and emotional aspects in successful practices.

Having almost always used the skills and tools at the frontier (technological, organizational, business, etc.) I have learned the value of peer learning, that is what we can learn from our peers, i.e. people similar to us, who work with the same tools in different markets or doing our own work with different tools.

The critical point in a peer learning path is to identify peers with which to undertake an active exchange of ideas and experiences. And this is not easy. Not only because peers are often competitors (and we know how difficult it is to cooperate among competitors), but above all because learning with peers is itself linked to the social and emotional aspects of the relationship.

So it is not only difficult to find cobbler willing to tell other cobbler the best techniques with which to repair shoes and make customers feel happy, but among these few we must find those who do not “have their kids go barefoot”. Updating so quickly and continuously is a path of professional growth, but it is, above all, a path of deep personal change.

Applying the techniques to me and this continuous learning have produced a profound change also in my business references. Stimulated by attending U. Lab and its “changemakers”, by the knowledge of social fields in the absencing / presencing cycles I start reflecting about substainable business model.

presencing absencing with valuesWhen I read an Otto Scharmer article (the founder of U. Lab) where he applied the theory of social fields to the way in which Trump was elected, I began to craft (and to apply) a new business model for my profession, a democratically and economically sustainable model, capable of generating income.

I found developing this model by chance. With two colleagues we started to collaborate sharing practices (peer learning) and business opportunities. Of course it was easy with them, we shared strong values and there was a very high level of pre-existing trust.

We did not imposed each other any sales fee on opportunities, but simply everyone felt compelled to reciprocate the generous opportunity received from the other.

As an old statistician, I measured the results of both models while experiencing it: I compared how much we would have earned each other if we had based our collaboration on fees with what we have gained by sharing the generosity of opening our customers to others. There was no comparison: the ratio is 1 to 10 for the benefit of the no fee approach.

Last year we also opened up to other colleagues and inevitably we had to define a set of rules. With great surprise we have discovered how these are few and “weak”. At the center of everything is generosity and reciprocity, strong values, which guide the few rules that underlie the weak ties between us, with, however, the presence of a strong trust that is consolidated with our actions.

We founded #brickdesign, a joint initiative to attack our reference market which is at the same time lean and with strong and shared values and trust.

#brickdesign leanWe have recently expanded this spirit of community-based business development even outside the national borders, with other colleagues, with whom we have started to share practices and opportunities.

This recent international move led us to increase our personal performance and our professional quality.

But is it a local model or can it be a starting point for a more general business model?

Few days ago I read another Scharmer article which advocates a society governed by presencing and based on cornerstones analogous to ours, such as altruism and optimism.

Altruism is at the source of business and finance

This bigger journey of transformation starts with how we think about the economy. Lucy Peng, the Executive Chair of Ant Financial, the world’s largest and most valuable fintech, pointed out to me that “altruism is the original intention of how business and finance was created. Altruism and optimism” she says, “are the two main forces that propel our civilization forward.” That idea, that altruism is at the source of all real economic activity, in my view holds the seeds for rethinking economics and regenerating the global economy. How to rethink and reshape our economy is being discussed in many circles right now, including an emerging global alliance of various major new economy initiatives that we will be partnering with starting next year (via our joint u.lab/HuffPost multimedia hub coming in March 2018).

Certainly the feasibility of reorganizing economy and of society from the bottom basing on the original principles of human development seems like science fiction, in a complex world dominated by ignorance and fake news. However, some strong structural innovations is emerging, such as the blockchain.

The blockchain is the system on which Bitcoin is based, the digital currency that has risen to the headlines recently.

Blockchain is a technology that records transactions permanently, in a way that cannot be deleted later, but can only be updated in sequence, essentially keeping an endless historical track. This seemingly simple functional description has gigantic implications.

In fact, it is misleading to see the blockchain primarily as a distributed ledger because it represents only one of its many dimensions. It is like describing the Internet only as a network or as an editorial platform.

The blockchain superimposes on the Internet a level of trust and as such has the potential to provide a reliable platform for the exchange and monitoring of many different forms of value on the Internet, from identity, to property rights, from medical information, compensation requests and even votes.

Furthermore, its ability to eliminate the need for a centralized Trust Validation (such as a government, a financial institution, etc.) to process transactions, creates opportunities to reduce costs and disrupt business models in many industries.

Blockchain believe that trust should be free, and not in the hands of central authorities that control trust in a form or another (eg Taxes, access rights or permits). They believe that trust can be and should be part of peer relations, facilitated by technology that can enforce it.

Trust can be codified and can be calculated as true or false by math and strengthened by powerful cryptography to cement it. In essence, trust is replaced by cryptographic evidence and trust is maintained by a network of trusted computers (honest nodes) that ensure security, in contrast to the single entities that create overload or unnecessary bureaucracy.

In a recent article, Taleb claims that the blockchain (and bitcoin) will make Hayeck’s catallaxy possible, i.e. “a self-organizing system of voluntary cooperation”. According to Hayek “human institutions are born from human actions, but they are not the result of human design: language, the market and law are the fruit of a long evolutionary process during which intentional actions continually cause unintended effects, giving life to a spontaneous order”.

Hayek argued that “all information relating to any system is necessarily decentralized. any centralized and planned economy, that is decided at the table by an individual or a group of individuals, who decide the distribution of resources, is losing at the beginning, as a single individual or a group of individuals, from the top of their position central and centralized, they do not have enough information to create an optimal allocation of resources “.

Taleb goes further:

In the complex domain, expertise doesn’t concentrate: under organic reality, things work in a distributed way, as Hayek has convincingly demonstrated. But Hayek used the notion of distributed knowledge. Well, it looks like we do not even need that thing called knowledge for things to work well. Nor do we need individual rationality. All we need is structure.

Which is why Bitcoin is an excellent idea. It fulfills the needs of the complex system, not because it is a cryptocurrency, but precisely because it has no owner, no authority that can decide on its fate. It is owned by the crowd, its users. And it has now a track record of several years, enough for it to be an animal in its own right.

For other cryptocurrencies to compete, they need to have such a Hayekian property. Finally, Bitcoin will go through hick-ups (hiccups). It may fail; but then it will be easily reinvented as we now know how it works. It may be too volatile to be a currency, for now. But it is the first organic currency.

So on the innovative perspectives of our model with weak links and strong values there are several supporting perspectives (by valuable people such as Sharmer and Taleb). However, “in the new world of continuous innovation, where speed of learning has become the new unfair advantage, we need dynamic models — not static plan”. And this is where the Ash Maurya Lean approach intervenes:

The challenge today isn’t building more solutions, but continuously uncovering what to build. And when things don’t work, uncovering why they didn’t work. You do this by focusing on problems before solutions. We, however, still need to set and communicate goals and milestones. That’s where the traction roadmap comes in. What Is Traction? Traction is the rate at which a business model captures monetizable value from its users. The right traction metric needs to signal business model growth. In other words, traction is the output of a working business model. Monetizable value is not the same thing as revenue. Revenue is an after-effect of value creation and not all that actionable by itself. In order to grow your business model, you need to uncover the key activities your users do that serve as leading indicators for future revenue. That is the concept of monetizable value.

So a Lean business model made of continuous building, discovery, monetizable, based on strong values and a trusted community able to build a self-organizing system of voluntary cooperation can become a successful business model, replicable in other contexts and easily governed.

Keys is a community where intentional actions continually cause unintended effects, giving rise to spontaneous order, where trust between members is strong and measurable. This model runs well for me and the people I work with, locally and internationally.


Photos credit: istolethetv – cobbler; O. Scharmer; Ash Maruya.

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