How To Change Gravity

May 29, 2020

In one of my coaching sessions this week, I helped a Founder change gravity.

Ok, we didn't actually change the laws of physics. But we did transform his thinking around a challenge he was facing to create a huge leap for himself and his team.

What do I mean by changing gravity?

Let's use my trusty Rocket Ship analogy. Often, when we are faced with a challenge, we try to solve the problem by building a bigger engine.

We put more effort, energy, resources on the challenge. More hours, more marketing spend, more engineers, more investment. And that will definitely give results. But there is a point of diminishing returns.

Because when you use the bigger engine approach, you pretty much accept conditions as they are and apply your current set of solutions.

But there's another option: change gravity.

That may seem like an impossible task, but it is really just a simple shift in thinking.

On one hand, shifting gravity is about zooming out and looking at all the forces at work on your situation. But more importantly it's about looking inwards and interrogating all of the assumptions you are making. Then questioning everything.

Another way to say it: The key to changing gravity is asking better questions.

For business, changing gravity begins with questions like:   How can we get people coming to us, vs us chasing them? How can we do 10x what we did last year? What are the biggest levers available to impact our trajectory? What if we ONLY accepted customer who were open to ongoing/recurring business at the price point we want?

Many of these questions are extreme, the more extreme the better.

Because if you are going to change gravity you have to get outside your current zone.

When you start asking better questions, you'll be forced to think in different ways - and you will unlock new exponential possibilities.

Going back to this Founder, how did we change gravity for him?

This Founder has done an amazing job creating a Rocket Ship company that is truly taking off. They have great product that solves a huge market pain.

Even more impressive is the organization that he's building. He's hired and developed a great leadership team. He's implemented the Traction EOS business operating system, so the team is starting to perform with Clockwork Execution and moving at incredible speed.

Big contracts are rolling in and the company just closed a significant Seed round.

This all sounds amazing - so what was his challenge?

His challenge was that as the company grows, he's feeling more disconnected from the front line work. He's spent the previous three years wearing every hat in the company, and felt doing that gave him the insight he needed to see a few steps ahead and figure out how to course correct.

While he trusts his management team implicitly, he also feels like he's the only one who really has the perspective to take that input and do his Founder vision magic.

His question was:

"How can I create a system where I can talk to anybody at any level at anytime without making my management team feel like I am going around them and people don't feel like I am micromanaging them."

For a variety of reasons, creating a system like this felt really laborious and problematic to both of us.

This is where a better question made all the difference. The question he was asking assumed that he was the only one who could connect the dots. Or that he had to go and get that information he needed.

So we changed the question to:

"How can you create an organization where every team member could recognize when something was significant, and either surface it to you, or connect the dots themselves?"

This question changed the whole trajectory of the conversation. The first question was asking how he could optimize himself (i.e. build a bigger version of the current engine). Always great, but inherently limited as he's only one person.

This new framing was about how you could optimize everyone in the organization to be able to surface and synthesize information to connect dots. If every team member was developing their capacity to do this, it would far surpass the Founder doing it alone.  

For the Founder, envisioning the potential impact of the whole org operating with this mindset versus only him, was mind blowing.

That's what changing gravity is all about. It's part of Playing the Bigger Game is all about.

So next time you work through a problem, challenge yourself to change gravity.

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Steve August
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