Friday, November 7, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 2


This idea comes directly from community building and transparency. I have personally invented several concepts and terms: salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobiles, pigaerators. Nothing makes me happier than when people use these words and duplicate the concepts. I hope they become household words.

“But what about competition or copycats?” you ask? I figure that if I can’t stay ahead of the copiers, then I don’t deserve to stay ahead. If you study innovation, the ones who are out in front have already gone through a learning curve. While copiers can shorten the curve or change its trajectory, they still have to go through it. This attitude keeps me lean and learning rather than bureaucratic and superficial. Imagine if everyone had to depend on their own cleverness to stay ahead of the competition. Talk about innovation immersion.

At Polyface, we have a 24/7/365 open door policy. Anyone can come anytime to see anything anywhere. We share our techniques, our models, everything. Is that foolish? By some counts, thousands of farms now copy what we do. Are we scared? No, because every business that copies our model will heal another few acres. We’re much more concerned about healing than competition. A business devoted to healing tends to preserve its patron base. And what a great story.

Yes, we’ve had numerous people misuse or abuse our concepts. But I’ve learned that what goes around comes around. And when a person begins taking credit for someone elses’ achievements, the market will eventually reward the innovator—unless the innovator becomes a graspy, paranoid, close-to-the-chest protectionist who tries to decapitate the competition.

Bottom line: the vulnerability that this notion creates also offers a magnanimous spirit that viscerally manifests Stephen Covey’s plenty vs. scarcity habit in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Most people tend to say they believe in openness but in actuality spend a lot of time protecting their stash.

To be continued...

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