Mitchell & Company - The Irresistible Growth Enterprise

M & Co.

Many actions can leave you with no place to go, like the dead-end crawl way in a cave at the right. Being realistic about your irresistible forces will help you be sure that you are acting in ways that allow you to travel along with the forces, like the passageway through the cave at the left. Wishful thinking can harm you, by making you too eager to pursue opportunities that offer little future potential due to opposing irresistible forces.

Excerpts - The Irresistible Growth Enterprise

Embrace the Forces

Why You Should Seek Out Irresistible Forces and How to Start Taking Action Now

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
- Frederick Douglass

The Benefits of Exposure to Challenge

During the development of our previous book, The 2,000 Percent Solution (AMACOM, 1999), many outstanding executives, academics, and journalists shared helpful ideas and comments. Interestingly, only one person commented on that book's epilogue, which included a story about some lizards. However, that one person happened to be Arie de Geus, a former Royal Dutch/Shell executive cited in this book, who is one of the finest business thinkers ever.

The above-mentioned lizards were part of an experiment designed to cause extinction. Scientists placed the lizards on islands with habitats ill suited for them so that more could be understood about the process of a species dying out. Regardless of the ethics (which seem questionable at best) of the experiment, the unintended lesson was profound. Typically, the lizards didn't become extinct. Instead, they overcame the adverse conditions of their new habitats. To survive, the lizards evolved at more than 2 billion times the normal rate (as suggested by what normally occurs from looking at fossil records) in both behavior and physical characteristics in a single generation. Rapid behavioral and physical changes continued in succeeding generations of lizards, until they were soon quite at home in their new environments. The lesson of the lizards' phenomenal evolution, as de Geus pointed out in his feedback, is a most important clue to how irresistible forces can unleash humanity's full potential.

Let's consider outer space for a moment. Many people question the wisdom of the substantial sums spent by the United States and others on manned space exploration. These critics see few advantages to these efforts, and point out other uses for the funds that would have more obvious benefits. Defenders passionately and optimistically point out the potential for new scientific discoveries.

What both sides of the debate miss is that the harsh and limitless dimensions of outer space are the perfect environment for encouraging humanity's most rapid physical, behavioral, and organizational development. For example, when exposed to weightlessness, human bodies degenerate in a number of subtle, but threatening, ways similar to aging. One such reaction is to lose calcium from bones. Evolving our bodies in outer space might provide important benefits for earth-bound people in learning how to retard similar degenerative effects. And if humans make mistakes while operating in outer space, the errors become life-threatening more rapidly, which suggests the necessity of learning how to operate closer to the ideal best practice. Finally, manned space exploration is so difficult and expensive that the nations of the world have little choice but to pool resources, providing models of cooperation and alliances to be applied in other areas.

An aggressive commitment to manned space exploration could cause a rate of human evolution far in excess of what happened with the lizards. Rapid physical changes in response to new environments may be just as possible for humans as for lizards. Although humans and lizards look very different, the DNA of each is similarly subject to change. Understanding genetics increasingly allows people choices for changing their own bodies, as in using gene therapy to overcome hereditary diseases. Scientists now predict that we will eventually be able to grow replacement parts for ourselves.

And people have advantages over lizards. In particular, humans can use techniques and tools to think in new and more valuable ways. These tools include asking new questions, abandoning old ways of thinking, and using powerful machines such as computers to extend the physical limits of the human mind. This improved thinking, in turn, can create both more tools and more physical changes that are beneficial. People probably have more psychological ability to adapt than lizards do, also, by being more cognizant of the full extent and implications of our environments.

As a result, we truly may be living at a new dawn of human creativity, at the threshold of a time when more evolution occurs than in the entire period since mammals developed. And it is possible that all of this could occur in only one century (three to five generations)!

In the context of this book, then, you should see by now that the potential for human organizations to improve can be greatly aided by thoughtful exposure to the rapidity and severity of irresistible forces and their changes. Such forces are, in fact, the environmental cause of almost all improvement. Therefore, you should seek out controlled exposure for your organization to additional large, overwhelming, and unpredictable irresistible forces to create the most valuable learning experiences.

You needn't risk extinction for your enterprise to get the improvements; care should be taken to avoid risk beyond what is prudent. You need only expose part of your organization to strong forces that can cause extinction for that activity if you don't adapt in time. To make this exposure less risky, tie that part of the organization to a safety harness (like the ones that trapeze artists use for very dangerous stunts). Such a safety harness can simply be continuous monitoring to determine whether to terminate an experiment that is too challenging (whether for an organization or for an individual in that organization).

An Action Plan for Irresistible Force Management

Shed your complacency about irresistible forces, think about how you relate to irresistible forces now, and start using all irresistible force as proprietary advantages. To help you get started, here is a list of things to do now:

1. Write down where your company is good at locating and preparing for tomorrow's irresistible forces.
2. Write down where your firm needs to improve now to respond effectively to tomorrow's irresistible forces.
3. Write down those areas where your business must change in order to perform close to its future potential for irresistible force management, and set deadlines for when those changes need to happen.
4. Share what you have written with those who will have to make the changes. Give them this book, and set a time limit for them to review their plans with you for how they are going to meet these deadlines for change.
5. Begin helping everyone in your enterprise learn how to identify the stalls described in Part One of this book, how to overcome them through stallbusting, and how to create many 2,000 percent solutions by using the eight-step irresistible force management process described in Part Two.
6. Put measurements in place for each key activity to track the effectiveness of your response to irresistible forces affecting your company.
7. Begin experimenting with exposing parts of your operations to severe environments in order to create greater ability to work with these forces.
8. Review your progress monthly against what you found initially.
9. Reread this book frequently.

Make two copies of the preceding list of tasks and put one somewhere near your office telephone and the other near your computer. You will see it every time you make or receive a call, or write or read an e-mail. It will remind you to communicate these critical points.

If you would like free copies of the eight-step process list and this list of tasks to post in your office, go to this book's Web site . On the home page, click on the buttons for those materials and print two sets for yourself. If you don't have access to the Internet, call (781) 466-9500 in the United States, 24 hours a day and leave your name and address. We will mail complimentary copies to you.

The book's Web site also has several chapters available for free browsing. You can send your colleagues there for information instead of always loaning them your copy of the book.

If you have questions about anything in this book, please send them to . We enjoy hearing from you and helping you get the most benefit from this book. Feel free to use us as your safety harness.