Considerations for a Beautiful Business
Unlocking the power of enterprise for a more beautiful world
This article and my body of work is for those of you who seek to create enterprises that support our present and future well being comprehensively.
Following an introduction to the work of R.Buckminster Fuller in my 20’s that insisted that I question EVERYTHING, (The existence or not of straight lines.)I have spent my life exploring models of human enterprise and engagement that enables all thriving.
People need their tribe, their family, community and work mates. People also need to feel that the work they do, the time they spend, matters and has meaning and value. And that in their day to day they get to bring the whole of themselves to their enterprise and are seen and recognised for their entire contribution.
We want to do great work. We want to be challenged. And we want to leave the world better for our time upon it.
Our current models are broken.
Capitalism is broken
We have handed over democracy to plutocracy and corporatism
The people and organisations who have created the problem want to be the ones who solve it, which is like having the arsonist become the firefighter
The Earth is screaming from our abuse
We are short term focused when we might consider the 100 year plan for enterprise and the increased wellbeing of all of humanity
But few of us know the extent and depth of the issues that are underpinned by the very systems we take for granted and so we set out with great intent only to find we have re-arranged the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Instead of working on re-arranging chairs on the sinking Titanic, let’s build a whole new boat.
This means starting from the very beginning. Re-thinking everything. Legal structures and entities, organisational design, human co-ordination, and every traditional business department (HR, Compliance, Risk, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service..)
If you plan on building today’s version of the cathedral that stands magnificent through time, then the pre-investment of time is not only required, but wise. If your plan is to create as much money as you can as fast as you can and exit, then this is not the path.
Save yourself the heartache of a broken down later, for a loved comprehensively considered today.
Underpinning this entire model is one thread, Integrity. Integrity means “one.” (integer). When a system is in integrity it is whole, it holds its shape.
Integrity is the ground, the air, the fire, the light, the soul, the spirit and the purpose for all.
Beautiful business is worth beautiful design, contemplation, invitation, and aligned activation. To speed up, let’s slow down.
6 PILLARS OF INTEGRITY ARCHITECTURE, 40 CONSIDERATIONS FOR A BEAUTIFUL BUSINESS
Note: Not all of these are applicable to all businesses. When I review a business step #1 is always to determine the Pattern Integrity of the business and the stage it is at within the larger ecosystem of business.
From there it is an ongoing co-designed process to ensure that the Pattern Integrity is evident in all domains in a way that supports the best for the business and the humans who invest their care, attention, time, money and life towards it.
Also note that there are many links sprinkled through this article for your ongoing reading. I have been writing about this topic for 14 years.
Pillar 1. Clarity of the Source Idea – the original impulse and purpose
1. What are you creating and why? The Pattern Integrity? Let’s get to the marrow of the why. Let us be sure that your enterprise is an expression of your deepest desire.
Many people skip over this step. Or their why is shallow, a desire fed from lack. Lack of recognition, lack of being heard and seen, lack of love, lack of worth. Indicators of desire built from lack is the desire for fame and fortune as the lead desire. Desire for stuff, for toys and glory. To be the Hero. The Time Magazine cover shot. The keeper of the keys and the holder of the power.
When we build from a desire that is far greater than we can ever imagine, something bigger than our “I”, when possibility (instead of lack) leads our desire, then we just might pull it off.
When we lead from the desire that is genuinely bigger than us we can also get out of our own way, as the “x” that is being created is far bigger than any one person and will require a tribe to pull it off. This takes away from the traditional model of leadership, where you have the “CEO”, the dominator, the elevated authority.
The new boat requires a very different type of leadership, what I describe as the steward leader, or midwife leader. Very, very light touch, very conscious and considered holding. In biology I liken this to a cell membrane. It has exquisite attention to the inner and outer ecosystem, it is a guardian of inflows and outflows and it enables a holding of the strange attractor that brings people and things together to create the enterprise. The cell membrane is also the keeper of the polarity that enables the cell to hold its shape (integrity). A good cell membrane in a healthy ecosystem goes unnoticed.
“In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decision on the next 7 generations.” Iroquois Confederacy.
Very few of us ever take the time to really sit in this, not just for the overall direction of the business, but for the actions along the way. Almost all of our current systems are designed around short termism. The quarterly review, the half yearly result, the increase in shareholder return, the political election cycle. Youth is celebrated, age is denigrated, the business model is one of inbuilt redundancy/planned obsolescence so we need to be constantly replacing/upgrading our goods. Throw-a-way goods, throw-a-way people, throw-a-way Earth.
When considering 7 generations we need to consider all of our actions. Who we bring on board as team, how we treat each other, how we treat every single stakeholder, including Earth. How we manage success, failure, feedback, coherence, dissonance. When we make any decision what are the consequences, now and much much later? Who and what will be effected? How will we manage that effect?
Do we comprehensively consider our actions, decisions, services, products in their past, present and future wholeness?
For an extraordinary example of comprehensive consideration listen to the podcast with Hugo Spowers from Riversimple.
3. Who is your service/product offering being created for? Right down to the detail. Know your customer, love your customer.
If you don’t absolutely love your customer, want to spend time with your customer, bring respect and appreciation to your customer, then the arc of your offering is not going to stick.
Using Integrity as the guide, your customer is not separate to your enterprise.
4. Does your customer absolutely want this?
How do you know? Have you asked them? Tested it? Created a minimal viable product? Invited them to partner? Taken on board the feedback provided?
5. What is the measure of profit? Money? Service? Well being? Community?
All of these? Other? Are we able to celebrate profit in multiple domains?
Profit means to advance. In what areas do you seek to advance, and how do you know you/the enterprise/all of your people/all stakeholders/Earth are advancing?
Any system that does not have its own ability to thrive built into its design is going to fail. Profit is not a dirty word. However monetary profit has been appropriated as the only reason for business to exist. It is a partial and therefore incomplete model. (= out of Integrity.)
The DNA, that if damaged will result in death. Everyone must be super clear about these. At a cellular lived level. (No lip service) Built in to every single act, offering and promotion. Values are the sacred ground upon which any beautiful business works.
7. What is the enterprise ideal lifespan? And what is your lifespan within the enterprise?
Lets discuss that now. What is natural for it, including lifestyle milestones. Given that everything will change as the enterprise is brought through the stages of its existence, this question is fluid. Yet we rarely consider the natural lifespan of any enterprise. Some enterprises must by their nature be designed to end, because to achieve the purpose of the enterprise will mean that it is complete. Ending any of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, for example, must mean that an enterprise designed to do that will then be done when the goal is reached. Often the creator of an enterprise is not the best person to steward an enterprise to a different stage of the enterprise. A wise leader/steward will be aware of this from the beginning.
8. What does growth look like?
Name the stages of growth for different dimensions. For example, growth of the humans working in the enterprise as described by Robert Kegan in “An Everyone Culture”. Growth of the numbers of clients. Growth of the positive effect you are having on humanity. Growth of the negative effect you are having on any area.
And when will the enterprise be at its growth peak, where growth may switch to another form of growth? (Growth in one dimension only is a very poor measure of success and is completely unsustainable. Yet to not have growth being nurtured in one or several domains simultaneously will lead to entropy. Most businesses focus on one dimensional growth which is rapacious growth and leads to community and environmental breakdown.)
Because we live in a culture deploying a model that relies on growth of capital/resource use/monetary profit to survive we prefer using the word syntropy. Where as entropy is a natural breakdown, syntropy is its opposite, a natural regeneration.
9. Following the conversation on growth, what is enough?
Repeat the question. Tell the truth. What is enough for the enterprise? And what is enough for you? This is an iterative question, and yet it needs to be answered honestly and captured in a time line. Consider all domains when answering. For example, enough money, enough clients, enough profit, enough media, enough wellbeing.
10. How do you commune with your enterprise?
Stay in heartfelt connection with it, enable its own agency? Yet able to partner with it to enable its full thriving without taking away from your own well being? How does the team commune with the enterprise, and how is communion shared as a respectful experience? Your enterprise has its own life force, your role is to provide the stewardship to enable that life force to be fully expressed.
11. How will you know you are on path? Off path?
And how do you keep track? A good indicator of on track/off track is synchronicities or the absence of them. An aligned path, even if challenging, will have a clear set of events that might affirm the direction. Learning to read/interpret signs is a good skill. Feedback loops with fellow team members and external advisors is also helpful to ensure we do not become delusional or collusional.
12. Who else in the world is attempting something similar?
Or maybe offering a different product but using similar processes? Who are your global tribe? How do you connect with them? Learn from each other? It is lonely in the world of creating something that has never been created. Outreach and connection to fellow journey people makes a difference.
Pillar 2. Self development as a leader/steward.
13. What are your skills and capabilities? And what are your limitations?
Let’s name them with profound clarity, in support of your enterprise. When will you know you are in the wrong role? Or need to exit? What kind of developmental support do you need? In a Deliberately Developmental Organisation (DDO), everyone knows the strengths and weaknesses of everyone, no exceptions. The culture enables support of development, and the whole human. Including the chief steward and the cleaner. This can only happen when there is safety, all shame has been removed, and people can show up fully human.
14. Who else do you need to support you?
Name what skills and abilities are critical to the success of your enterprise. If you have blind spots, and we all do, then gather a small team of trusted advisors to point out your blind spots. We all need rigorous feedback. Particularly if we are going to be a part of a deliberately developmental organisation, where an equal part of the mission is the human development as we are going about adding our value to the enterprise and the world. Our inability to take on feedback, or our ability to project wrong onto others without first considering our part in this, is a failing of leadership and responsibility and is endemic in most organisations.
15. Lets talk about your saboteur. How do you sabotage?
What are the patterns? How do you protect against this/against your own saboteur?? Build the mechanism into the design? Set up systems to ensure minimal sabotage or corruption? How does the collective sabotage? How do you respond to collective sabotage and collusion? How do you prevent it from happening?
16. What will you do if things do not seem to be working?
Is there a process? Who is included? In a DDO (deliberately developmental organisation), it is an everyone process. The opinion of the cleaner is as valuable as anyone’s. This would include your customers and stakeholders. Responding to issues and breakdowns within an enterprise, with rare exception, will be better when it is a whole systems, whole enterprise considered response.
Pillar 3. Structural Integrity of organisational design
17. What governance model is best fit for what you are doing?
We need to know the difference between all of the corporate and legal entities. The options. Much easier to start with the right entity that meets the purpose and aims of your enterprise you aspire to build than to retrofit it later. Plus the legal entity will carry the energetic thread of that structure into your organisation even if you are not aware of this.
Most organisations simply overlay their aspirational enterprise on an existing legal model, not realising that when they do they are inviting the archetypal energy of that legal entity to the enterprise.
A limited liability corporation was designed in 1600 AD for a very specific purpose. Do you understand the history, and its original design principles? Do you care? Have you considered that when you introduce this type of legal entity to your organisation you are bringing in those principles, whether you want to or not? Do you really want to limit your liability? Or would you like to take full responsibility for what you are creating and delivering? What does full responsibility mean? If you did take full responsibility, would you change your design considerations from the get-go?
We rarely stop to consider what is needed to support the fullest expression of the form of the enterprise we aspire to steward. And given our lack of future based legal entities that express the business of being human, best for fit now is still not best for future fit. Bcorps and Benefit corporations are better but still an example of deck chair re-arranging of a very old and broken system.
18. What is the organisational design that enables great aligned people to show up with their full agency and yet work in community?
We want to be sure the design matches the purpose of the enterprise. That it is in harmony with the values and principles. This is an intricate and iterative design process. Almost every organisation steps right over this. It is entirely possible to design an enterprise that ensures people hold themselves to account, take full responsibility for their actions, take on roles and jobs as needed, and contribute with love to the success of the whole – the mission and purpose of the enterprise and the well being of all participants. Please check out the Trust Manifesto of Big Blue Sky for an example of an organisational design.
19. How does your enterprise thrive? What is the business model?
The business model needs to match the future aspirations of the company. The amazing British Company, Riversimple, wanted to create the most affordable environmental local transport mechanism possible. Their hydrogen cars come at a fixed monthly cost. Each month you pay one figure that covers every single vehicle cost. No extra’s. Fuel, maintenance, registration, breakdown, insurance. This means that for Riversimple to be profitable financially, they need their vehicles to never breakdown, and to very super efficient when it comes to fuel, as they are paying for breakdown service and fuel. They also wanted their vehicles to be beautiful, affordable, environmental, and long lasting.
Get the business model right, ensure it is aligned with your values, purpose, deep desires. Use tools such as the Business Model Canvas to work with. Invite all stakeholders to the design table.
The business model needs to thrive in all domains, not just a few. Name the domains, and be sure to set goals/benchmarks for knowing what thriving looks like. Domains might include commodity, custom and culture, knowledge, money, technology, well being. Or subsets of these. (*Integral Accounting. Dr David Martin)
20. What systems need to be in place?
Who is the systemsologist on the team? The one who see’s systems before they are needed? This skill is often discounted, and yet it will make the business operations hum more than rattle.
Pillar 4. People, teams, culture
21. How do you build clarity of communication and accountability into the organisational design?
Communication breakdowns contribute towards the most loss of flow and effectiveness in an organisations.
How do you ensure that the enterprise is deliberately developmental across the entire organisation, if this serves its purpose? That communication flows are effective, designed to be clear and transparent, and that the ongoing training and development of the team, including the executive team, ensures advances in communication ability, emotional intelligence, and self reflection?
22. How do you ensure that all contributions, human and non human, are honoured and recognised for their value, at all stages, and in full?
That at no time is anyone or anything exploited, extracted from, undervalued, overvalued, ignored, dehumanised, not listened to, not stepped over, and not allowed to get away with their own BS?
If you have a heritage shareholder document, how do you ensure transfer to a model that is far more aligned to the DNA and purpose of the enterprise and includes categories that we have as humans so far ignored? (Social and emotional capital, connections and creativity for example.)
23. Who are the strategists on the team?
Those who see bigger, further, through complexity? How do you bring them along and enable them to guide? (Strategists can be found anywhere in the enterprise.) Good strategists start with the Universe (whole) first.
24. Who is the advisory board?
Formal/informal. Ensure skill and diversity. (Of everything) How frequently do they meet, or are they called upon?
25. Who are the creatives in the team?
How do you ensure they have a voice and channel? Plus a big white blank canvas to play on regularly. Creatives will challenge, keep things fresh, enable perspective shift, invite play and fun. They have more value when they get us to pause and consider ‘out-of-the-box’ options.
26. Who are the peoples people on the team.
…those who care for others so masterfully? How are they valued?
27. Who are the spacemakers on the team?
They make spaces and ecosystems that enable humans to be their best. No gathering can do without them, as they add the special sauce, turning bland to beautiful.
*creatives, people’s people, spacemakers and listeners for integrity may have more formal ‘other’ roles, yet these skills they do as easily as breathing. When they are recognised for their capacity to do these things you will get a stronger culture where people are seen for the whole of themselves.
28. Who is the storyteller?
The keeper of the records? And how is the story captured and told?
and in all the ways you engage with business and enterprise and each other? Beauty brings us closer to greatness. A business absent beauty will wither on the vine.
30. Rituals and celebrations…what, how, when?
Leave space for some to emerge from the community, as the unpredicted and completely spontaneous rituals are often the best. People thrive on good rituals. It builds community. Build other rituals in with deliberation. Choose with care what you celebrate. Then be sure to go all out with celebrating.
31. What are the agreed channels of communication and application of technology as a tool to support an increase in human connection.
What works? Review regularly, as this landscape changes fast and needs to be adapted with changes in virtual and analog mediums.
32. How do you handle failure?
The small and the big. We are all human. We all make mistakes. Is your organisations fear based because of how you handle failure and mistakes, or is it entrepreneurial where first time mistakes are celebrated and learned from?
33. How do you manage team upset?
Disagreements? Violations of integrity? What is the clear, transparent process that honours humanity in its process, and is both respectful and dignified?
34. What is the check for organisational safety?
That everyone feels safe enough to bring their whole selves, to speak up, to name elephants, to offer ideas? By everyone, I mean everyone. (Including all stakeholders.)
35. Who is the listener for integrity?
The one who knows when the integrity of the enterprise has been violated? And how do you give this person/people the opportunity to be deeply listened to, heard and considered? They may be scattered throughout the enterprise, or you may be sure to have at least one person take this role as a major focus. Not to be a witch hunter, but to listen for the hum of resonance and alignment, or lack of.
Pillar 5. Networks and the field
36.Does everything you are creating and doing map back to natural systems?
If not, you have the design wrong. (Unless you are God, in which case, you probably still have the design wrong because you think you are God or the God equivalent.)
37. Who is in the greater network? And what is the field of play for your business?
Who are the stakeholders, even those who will be very peripherally affected by your enterprise? How strong is your network? The web of connections around your business? What is the field of play for your business? The economic, environmental, cultural ecosystem? How much attention are you giving the field as you build the business? Are you reading the signposts?
38. Where will attack come from in the exterior world?
The naysayers, rock throwers, covert and overt troublemakers? What are your pathways to respond? (Revert to values. Principles. The Why.) If you are doing really great work in the world, and challenging the status quo, you will be attacked, so be prepared for it. Build organisational resilience into the design. At the same time, be sure to have mechanisms to discern between attack to destroy, and attack to lift up. Harsh feedback can be very difficult to hear, yet is worth it. Attack can destroy when it is not anticipated and met with an energetic opposite.
Pillar 6. Strategy and Implementation
39. How is it best to resource this? Money, currency, people, supplies, services, technology? We need to ensure there is an energetic match between the enterprise purpose and principles and the means of supply.
(A) That the type of capital and funding is aligned.
*explore and understand the many different types of capital/finance/funding.
*understand the principle of provisioning.
*understand Integral Accounting
Many people walk into investor/funding relationships without any idea as to how this will impact the company, its core DNA, your ability to make decisions, the long term ramifications. In times of high need it is easy to make decisions about funding that will undermine the coherence and integrity of the enterprise at a later date. Keeping the integrity is critical, even when things do look bleak.
Understanding the nature of provisioning is helpful. Most people step right over provisioning because they are looking for something else, usually measured in an amount of dollars, money being only one form of provisioning.
Any organisation that is isomorphic with nature, is aligned with integrity, and wants to be born (even despite us) will have the provisioning required for the very next step. (And often not for the second or third step.) The questions required to source provisioning for the very next step only are not found in the usual funding manuals.
(B) When we invite people to join, we rarely take the time to really understand the full measure of their offering. The result, we get people who are only seen for a small part of what they have to bring. Rare is the leader who steps out of their own way and allows people to bring the whole of themselves to an organisation, contributing in ways that are beyond what is seen as possible. But to enable this, a culture of safety that celebrates wholeness is required. The structure of the organisation enables people to show up in their wholeness, and as such, their work is far better, because almost all organisations only employ half people, and even worse, only allow people to show up in certain ways. As a consequence, we have people who are very dissatisfied with their work place, and seek fulfillment in other arenas. (Including the various forms of medication.)
40. Tuning into the Pattern Integrity, the inner field of the business, the culture within and without, and the larger field in which the business exists, what is the most elegant pathway forward?
Who will add to the strategic conversation? How do you adjust if you need a course correction? What signposts do you have to indicate a course correction is required? How able are you to listen to the ideas and opinions of others, and to really take them on board?
You might feel somewhat overwhelmed by these questions, which is normal. Commencing a Beautiful Business, or shifting from a ‘business-as-usual’ to a Beautiful Business is not easy. (Starting any business is not easy.)
Taking the time to consider these questions, or many of them, will be an investment that will pay in multiples in the future.
Almost all startups I know have rushed into product design and delivery, and neglected foundations. Or they have hastily said yes to funding that traps them to a course that is not why they started the business in the first place.
I do know that there is a rising tide of people seeking to build, engage with, buy from, and model Beautiful Business that serves all stakeholders in the immediate and long term future.
We currently have few models. We are writing the maps.
We are the pioneers and frontier people.
My work with people like you creating businesses like this is how I can positively impact many people who will be touched, directly and indirectly, by our all-in-efforts to build new models that make the existing obsolete. To design and build beautiful human enterprises that our future selves and our children’s children will be proud of.
I would be delighted to serve towards the more beautiful world that we know is possible.
Photo credit; Christine McDougall, 2017.