Trauma center

I think of my professional craft, and my professional interest, as “unlocking human energy.” Over the last decade or so, as the logical continuation of that interest, I’ve become increasingly focused on trauma. Trauma arrests human energy. It prevents individuals, groups, and societies from flourishing. The traumas I am thinking of include a range, from developmental traumas of neglect and abandonment, to extreme violence, to daily mundane dissatisfactions and thwarted expectations, to giant historical injustices. Trauma wants our acceptance and understanding. As an intrinsic part of the human experience, it is both the obstacle and the path. Trauma triggers the…

The Six Centers

All individuals and groups have finite attentional resources. These attentional limits constrain what organizations can do, including their efficiency, ambitiousness, insightfulness, and success. As I’ve said elsewhere: “In his wonderful and occasionally heady book The Ecology of Attention, Yves Citton writes that ‘we never have the means to pay enough attention’ and so we end up paying attention to what preoccupies others. Limited attention leads to groupthink: we pay attention to what others in the group pay attention to, reacting to and in the context of other people’s priorities, in an endless feedback loop. Attention, in other words, is ‘an…

Scaling a small business

It’s very easy these days to start a small business. It’s very difficult these days to scale a small business. In my earlier post “Becoming #1,” I used a crude model to talk about the competitive environment and growth trajectory for all organizations: I noted that every organization, at every level of scale, must become either the market leader or the thought leader for their niche or category. And I was almost but not-quite explicit about the zigzag path all organizations take as they grow: To sum up: An organization starts as a niche player with a narrow and precisely…

The Three Machines: Nonprofit Edition

In an earlier post, I shared a model, adapted from Brad Feld, that describes all contemporary organizations as having “three machines.” Each of these machines is in fact a funnel—moving clients along a journey, turning interested parties into brand advocates and dollars into sustainable strategic advantage. With a few nomenclature tweaks and clarifications, this model works not just for private sector organizations, but for nonprofits, too. The Programs machine Though some nonprofits sell products, most are primarily services businesses, so our Product machine needs a new name. An arts organization might label this machine “Programming,” and some other nonprofits might…

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