This list of practices, which I originally crafted when I was researching Generative & Generous Organizations, turns out to be a really great list for Feminist Businesses. Feminist businesses that want to act as community catalysts and serve as possibility models for others can open themselves up to influence/ be influenced using these practices and principles.
Building your business while boosting the business of others requres more than a few mindshifts. It also requires that we do things differently. How does a boost company behave? What can you do to become a boost organization?
Here’s a preliminary set of practices. Some of these suggested actions are more refined than others. Some need better names. Some are even missing! But as a start, these work.
Boost Practices Focus in Four Areas: Your Organization, Your Relationships, Co-Learning, and Your Products
Principle: Ground Your Organization in Its Own Strength.
Create a firm organizational foundation. Companies can only boost others when they themselves are balanced and strong. Your organization doesn’t need to be ‘stable’ or have everything figured out, but it does mean that your organization needs to have a firm grip on what it has to offer and what matters so that you can focus your efforts in places where contributions matter.
1. Acknowledge, Affirm, Amplify Companies You Admire
Seek out and promote the companies that are doing things you admire, companies you want to learn from, companies worth emulating. No matter what your organization is working on, you are not alone in this. Find organizations doing things you admire, and tell them and the world what you admire about them and why. This acknowledgment helps to make whatever they are doing more real, because you are telling them it matters. They matter. Consider others through a lens of ‘unconditional positive regard’, to emphasize their strengths rather than their failings. Positive regard strengthens them and it helps you and them find additional strengths. helps them find you. Combats loneliness. Gives you people to draw energy from Public affirmation holds a spotlight on other organizations doing what we appreciate, draws attention to them, and helps to affirm them. It creates a sense of abundant good. Promote them not only with words, but also with your business. (e.g., buy from companies whose values support yours.) Name and Claim Your Tribe. Makes your tribe visibile to themselves, to each other as well as to you and the world.
Nurture a Nourishing Neighborhood
Create a neighborhood of organizations that are doing things that matter to you. This neighborhood can be physical (e.g., share coworking space with companies that share your values, rent offices in parts of town where people and companies you admire hang out.) The neighborhood can also be virtual/digital, where your company uses tools and products made by companies you admire, or uses tools that bring companies together on line (e.g., a company blog or newsletter that highlights the work of companies you admire — keeping them and their qualities top of mind, for inspiration). Companies in your neighborhood don’t have to be like you, or going towards the same goal, or be in the same business. They just need to share something that matters to you…keeping you aware of this and helping to reinforce that this quality matters.
Declare your Purpose
Be clear, loud and bold about what you stand for, and what you’re shooting for. This draws the right people to you and helps them start to see how they might work in alliance with you.
Be The Change
Develop an identity as a ‘generous’ organization. Help your organization transform how it sees itself. Start practicing boost behaviors within your own organization, in your relationships across departments, between the organization and employees/members, and outside with current customers/clients. Practicing on yourself helps you figure out what comes easily and what needs more support, helping you to learn as you go. Putting boost into practice commits your organization to the concept of helping. Plus, it sets you up to be more creative in figuring out what your organization uniquely has to offer.
Unlock Your Uniquity
Know that your company is endowed with—what makes it special. Offer this to other companies. Unlocking your Uniquity requires some reflection, and some willingness to be vulnerable. But oddly enough, it’s the safest thing for you to share. Because this quality is ‘in your dna’ and indigenous to you, it can never be take from you, mimicked by some other organization, or depleted. Unique features are the inimitable parts of your company’s business model. They are competition proof.[remember the book Different, by Moon] Look for connections that let you demonstrate this uniqueness (e.g., if you are all about holocracy, offer to help a mastermind group set up a shared governance system). Finding relationships that draw on precisely what makes your organization special helps to strengthen you.
Extend & Expand Your Gratification Horizon
Nothing prevents serendipity like a demand for instant ROI. Still, no business can completely ignore short term wins and growth. So make sure that the gratification horizon has short, medium, long, and infinitesimal/unknowable timelines. This will help you see whether actions / decisions are right in long and short term (fights short-termism). Establish other ways to assess value, beyond money and common ‘performance’ metrics. Look for ‘humble metrics’, ways of tracking your contributions to others. In some cases, let go of metrics and measures altogether, recognizing that not everything that’s important can be measured. Recognize different forms of gratification and ‘return’. FInd ways to understand ‘thick value’ and to be comfortable with the idea that returns aren’t always— and don’t need to be — commensurate with level of efforts. Use identity, values and purpose as well as ROI to assess whether something is right for your organization to invest itself in.
Shift to Gift-Mindedness
Gift-mindedness asks us to understand the specific gifts that our organization can bring (expertise, access, values, allies), and consider how we can use these to make a difference. Gift-mindedness helps us make a connection based on what we have right now that we can contribute, and it helps keep us feeling engaged and motivated. ( The concept comes from Peter Block.)
Bias Behavior Towards Generosity
It’s easy to say “Be Generous” but sometimes harder to make generosity a practice. Always ask that question— how can I contribute to this person, this company, and their growth? Every generous act unlocks power, the power to make a difference.
Principle: Connect in a Generative Way Now
that your organization is prepared in spirit, in posture, and in alignment, the next challenge is to build connections with others.
Make the Generous Ask
Simply offer to help, by asking ‘What can we do to help you?’ You may be able to guess a few things, but it’s usually better create a space where potential partners can express their own needs, from their own point of view. Meet them where they are and help them with what they need. Make the SuperGenerous Ask: Ask them for help, so that you model vulnerability and openness, honor their expertise, and begin a very simple relationship.
Only partner with companies that Share The Love
When it comes to making longer term, broader or deeper connections, be choosy about the companies you make commitments to. Choose companies that are already boosting others or who are aiming to learn how. Choose companies that will care for your business relationships and look out for your interests as well as theirs.
Build Win-Win-Win Business Models
Make every business model multi-sided. Find ways to incorporate the communities and constituencies that are usually ‘outside’ the ways that organizations like yours do business, and bring them in. Evaluate options using the win-win-win criteria: “Does it help Them? Does it help us? Does it help the community?”
Revv Your Serendipity Engine
Look to create spaces where you can meet other businesses and just explore opportunities. These spaces can be physical and virtual, temporary and constant, conceptual and behavioral. Have some slack… so that you have resources to think, experiment with, share. There are systems and tools that make serendipity more likely. Use these to create interactions, and then build connections. Serendipity engines are tools and systems like Twitter, Yammer (inside organizations and across org boundaries), open blogs, and so on. Anything that increases what Sebf calls “bumping into-ness”. “I think of them as engines of serendipity that generate a background hum of opportunity.”
Develop Protective Networks
Embrace the concept of Social Keiretsu — a network designed to buffer, support and protect organizations in your network and neighborhood. Stick up for your partners when they are in trouble, especially when they fail in public. Build Platforms and Holding Spaces to Support Connections: Create structured, shared spaces for specific opportunities, to gather resources, to build engagement. (This is kind of like a serendipity engine, but more structured and encompassing. Also more ‘other focused’. A boost connector not only identifies and introduces parties that might have something in common. A boost connector works with parties— either directly mediating, or indirectly providing a supportive space — until they are able to establish a connection that they can support themselves. (Or, the boost connector keeps them in the space so that they can turn transactions on and off as needed.) A meetup or a mastermind group might serve this purpose. You can use your reputation, position and resources to make this possible and real for other companies.
3. Principle: Learn Together (create a community of boost practice)
Work Out Loud
/ Do it in the open… Share your learning as you learn with whomever is interesting. It’s a way of contributing to the commons, just by being more open and expressive about what you’re already doing.
Craft Social Learning Tasks and Mentor Bugs
Find ‘demonstration projects’ — real things that the community or relationship can work on together — that help to teach skills and processes. Help people with problems that need solving, especially when you’ve solved something similar. Identify problems and programs where you can help others learn the process for fixing them. Explain the basics of what to do and offer to support them as they try it themselves. Brings new people into the community, creates relationships AND gets work done. Improvise Possibilities with the Yes, And… response: You can’t know exactly what other organizations need, but you can improvise your way with the practice of going with their need. This may help you identify what you each have to offer to each other and need from each other. Or it can help you figure out what’s needed and inspire you to connect them with different and maybe more appropriate partners. Experiments and explorations are valuable forms of action, even if they don’t have a concrete, pre-determined ‘goal’ or ROI
Review Each Other’s Leadership Code
Offer to look over their work, and ask them to look over yours, so that neither of you get blindsided by the curse of the expert/insider. (This focuses mostly on improving work processes.)
Principle 4. Create Together (boosting through products)
Eat Their Dogfood For Them
Use other companies products and give them thoughtful feedback. Be beta testers for others, which will often help you find tools and partnerships at the very beginning of their creation, so that you can be first in line and ALSO get your needs met as they build their product. Like being an early adopter. Bet on the come, place a bet on their success.
Put Your Goodies In Their Basket.
If you can create your product once, but put it in many places, consider putting your product into someone else’s product (the api model). Bundle it with other standalone products to ng to Co-Create. Co-create products by offering parts of yours that make sense for them to incorporate. Sometimes a suite of products is more valuable as a package than as an aggregation. Puts all of you in each other’s company for a halo effect and makes it likely that people will sample your work.
Design Boosting into Your Business Model (e.g., B1G1)
There is a place for giving things away as part of your boost, although your organization needs to be careful to be enabling rather than controlling or patronizing. Giving away products (e.g., shoes, software) and sharing tools (e.g., unused server space, extra seats in a learning workshop) when this is largely free to do (or supported by your revenue structure) can work to help others build their capacity. Put your Product Where It Is Most Needed When you have choices about which users or community to focus on, consider focusing not just on the community most likely to adopt your product, but also on communities most likely to need your product.
Build Products that Boost As They Are Used.
Some products and services just do stuff for their customers/users. Others help build awareness, teach meta-learning, and build transferable expertise (expertise that’s not attached to the product) as they are used. It may even be possible for you to make it easy for other people to use your product to boost others.