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The Power of Many


I am frequently reminded of the inspirational power of a single individual or thought, amplified by the power of many working together to make a dream come true.  I was on a plane trip to Orlando and there was a child from the Make A Wish Foundation.  In addition to all the people making that single wish come true, the stewardess made an announcement and the entire plane cheered the dream of that small child.  My wife pointed out that someone was on the sidelines for a snowboarding event in Sochi last week to see his hero compete ion the half pipe event.  His hero came in fourth, outside the medals.  but to the competitors credit, when no one was watching, he ducked under the barriers and gave that boy a big hug.  The dream of one fulfilled by the power and efforts of many.  I heard a story this week of Walt Disney’s dream of creating Disney World out of swamp land in Florida.  The basics of the story his he sold a vision–a vision of a castle for little princesses, that can be seen from everywhere.  A castle at the heart of the complex.  A castle first–so you know where to put the roads and which way to have the hotels face.  The dream of a single individual that has become the dream of many who spend 3 years saving to take what is often a trip of a lifetime.

Mandela

I like working with large, Fortune-1000 companies to bring them the enthusiasm and “can do” attitude of startups, and to work with start-ups to bring them the wisdom and discipline of companies that have survived decades in business and learned a thing or two.  In each case, there are numerous examples of the single inspiration and the power of many.  Most everything starts with the vision of a single individual or a small group of like minded individuals.  Through hard work and consistent attention to fostering that dream in each and every person involved in the effort, it grows–sometimes to whopping proportions, like this weeks acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion dollars after just 5-7 years in business.  You will often hear people talk about building a culture–that somewhat undefined inspiration that holds a company together as it grows and gets many people committed to the inspiration of the fo

unders.  The same thing happens in large businesses as a new business unit head is appointed and she works to find a new flag to rally around and change a culture to grow her business unit.  You find this ever present in large companies that have a CEO/President aided by the experience and diversity of a board of directors of 3-12 people.

There is a small, non-profit organization in Sandy, Oregon called “The Ant Farm International.”  (http://antfarm-international.com) One of their sayings coming from native American lore is, “The Might of One, The Power of Many.”  This dream of a single individual brings together volunteers from around the area to help children at risk, giving them education and tools to succeed in life, and a safe place to hang with friends and a few mentors.  They use the image of the highly industrious ant that can lift man

y times its weight and works together as a fabulous team to build incredible structures and feed their own.

Business accelerators, start-up weekends, business incubators are a common trend today.  They proclaim the benefit of putting various people together from different businesses, but in similar circumstances, to learn from each other and bounce ideas off one another.  To me, it is another example of the phrase, “Two heads are better than one.”  I have had a chance in the last six months to participate in design bursts and innovation summits.  These are, at their heart, attempts to use classic brainstorming techniques to get input from multiple people and to get their commitment to the new ideas and directions.

Let me leave you with a couple of quotes and links:

  • “None of us is as smart as all of us” Satchel Paige
  • “The inspiration of one–the power of many to carry forward and change–the world” Paul Menig
  • “Never, ever give up” Diana Nyad, first person to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Diana Nyad TEDTalk
  • “The many with a bit versus the few with a lot” Alastair Parvin TEDTallk