Two Words That Could Change Your Life(or at least your business)

Cindy Cooper, KO’s Chief Marketing and Impact Officer, recently sent me an article from the Harvard Business Review titled, The Innovator’s DNA. This post is not about that article. Someday I’ll write a post about that mind-blowing article, the research behind it, and its inspirational message that innovation and attaining an innovator’s mindset CAN be learned. For now, I’ll leave you to read the article and to draw whatever conclusions or parallels to your own business and/or life that you wish.

Surprisingly, this post is about just two words from the article. Yes, that’s right, just two words. These two words inspired such an epiphany in me that I just had to write down my thoughts. The two words?

“Embrace constraints.”

You see, I had been really struggling to communicate to our team at KO the “why” behind our achievement of B Corp certification. And while I had written what I thought to be a very clear answer to that question in a previous post and sent that post to every team member in advance of posting it to the KO blog, I still felt that I was doing a crappy job of communicating the complete “why,” or at least the real concrete value of the “why.” Until, I read those two beautiful words.

While B Corp certification acknowledges our commitment to use our business as a force for good by putting people, planet and profits on equal footing, it more importantly challenges us to never settle for the status quo, regardless of how successful we are at using our business as a force for good. Differently from most all other third-party certifications I’m aware of, there’s an inherent constraint in B Corp certification for the simple fact that you can never quite achieve the nirvana of perfection. No one, no business, can actually attain all that the certification demands. Everyone falls short by some margin. And it’s the margin, the gap, which gets you out of bed every day in an attempt to better your “score.” The margin, the constraint of achieving perfection provides the perfect environment to attempt to make today’s score better than yesterday’s. Plus, there is the positive pressure of knowing it is being shared with the world for all to see on the B Corp website.

By embracing the constraints placed upon us by the certification’s demands, we’re forced to think differently about our business model. We’re forced to make changes, positive changes that we otherwise might not change – or even see a need to change. And the absolute beauty of this constraint is that it forces creativity in our daily approach to working in and around this constraint. And that takes us back to the article and my epiphany. Because when I read, “Creativity loves constraint,” that’s when I had the epiphany. That’s when I realized that this particular certification process was parallel to having a vision for our business that is so big, so unattainable yet so desirable, that we are motivated and inspired to get out of bed every day and pursue it with all the heart, soul, and especially creativity that we can muster.

One last thought about my two new favorite words, embrace constraints. Understanding that in every creative process there’s a yin and a yang, a functional and a physical, I went to a favorite destination, thesaurus.com, to look up the antonym to “constraint.” There I found two more new BFF words, “permission” and “freedom.”

By embracing the constraints of achieving perfection in B Corp certification, we’re given “permission” to have a gap between our current pursuit and nirvana. And it’s within this “permission” that we experience a “freedom” to approach our business as a force for good that is completely unique to our own personal cultural experience.

I embrace that freedom.

References:

Charles and Ray Eames are a prime example of a couple that embraced constraints and succeeded in making significant contributions to the development of modern architecture and furniture. Eames Office, Design Q&A Text, 1972, retrieved from: http://www.eamesoffice.com/the-work/design-q-a-text/

Harvard Business Review, The Innovators DNA, December 2009, retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2009/12/the-innovators-dna

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