A POSITIVE VIEW OF RURAL: Stop Saying ‘No’

How many variations of this have you heard:

  • We’re a small town; we can’t afford to let people duplicate efforts
  • It would be so much more efficient if we didn’t have so many overlapping projects
  • If we just knew what everyone was doing, we could streamline and eliminate all the conflicting events
  • We already do something like that; why should we let someone else create competition?
  • We don’t want to get fragmented! It will drain our resources
  • We don’t want you to work on that idea. Our organization is going to do it

Now, be honest, how many of these have you yourself said? They are all variations of putting yourself in control.

It’s like what we talked about with business plan competitions. You’re trying to pick winners. That is the Old Way. Testing is the New Way.

Why is there an Old Way and a New Way? Because power is shifting in our society. As the center of power continues to shift from formal organizations, businesses and institutions, toward individuals, the value we place on efficiency will go down while the value of experiments goes up.

Back when the power belonged to one central authority to be obeyed, then efficiency could be the goal. Now that the power lies in the hands of the people, efficiency is irrelevant. Effectiveness is the result.

In crowdsourcing, the goal is to get the largest number of small tries and tests. Experiments over efficiency. We learn faster by letting lots of people try than by trying to pick the one best way in advance. We innovate faster by trying lots of things than by insisting everyone cooperate on just one thing.

Stop telling people ‘No.’ Start cheering them on, even when it duplicates effort.

As for the idea that your town is too small to support duplication of effort, realize that it is a false comparison. Even if you could know everything and decide on the one best way, you couldn’t force everyone to march according to your orders. You’ll never get everyone. The people who want to try things a new way are not going to suddenly fall in line. You wouldn’t have any more people available for your streamlined project than you do when there is duplication. So why not let them try their way? They might have a better twist on the idea, a new way of doing something, or bring in new partners and people you couldn’t reach yourself.

Once you give up the role of streamliner-in-chief, you can take on a new role: the Venture Capitalist of New Ideas. Like a venture capitalist for startup businesses, your role is to encourage and cheer them on, but also observe and invest your organization’s limited resources in only the most promising.

You’re not in the role of saying ‘No.’ You’re in the role of saying, ‘Go ahead and try it!”

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Becky McCray

Becky McCray writes about small business and rural issues, based on her own successes and failures. She and her husband own a small town retail liquor store and cattle ranch.  Learn more at her website.