Intense Moderation

We have and will continue to consider power-law distributions and phase changes. These abnormalities are regularly around us. They are fascinating moments to point out in complex adaptive systems. Thou shall not forget the phase change. But, what of the intermediate time period? What of the phase itself? How should one operate therein?

In today’s “extremification” culture –where rockstar status is the only status worthy of highlighting– we think it’s important to concentrate our focus and intensity on modesty. I call this “intense moderation.” I purposefully use the word “moderate” rather than “optimize,” which I think carries too great an air of precision. An optimization algorithm purports to solve for the singular, precise optimum. An intense moderation approach strips away the unnecessary with humility, confessing a lack of precision as it goes. I believe this is an ideal approach for the phases between step changes. The intensity at which one moderates oneself prepares thyself for the phase change while delivering value along the way.

For example, a startup usually takes a radical approach to garner first customers’ attention. “We are the best at XYZ.” Customers ABC want XYZ and purchase. The extreme statement worked and so is repeated. Capacity exceeds workload, and statements encourage closure of the actual capacity gap. Rapid growth ensues. Profits lag as filling the capacity with a larger activity is of greater net present value. Then, moderation enters the lexicon. “Maybe we don’t have to be the best at XYZ? I mean, their cash is as good as ABC’s cash, right?” And from this deviation, the focus is diluted. And where a philosophy of filling the capacity once reigned, the capacity is now reigned in.

A business which oversells its internal capacity is usually most profitable. The ideal solution, internally-delivered, are known and fit the best situations amongst an array of existing and easy-to-obtain sales. The slightly off-target are shed in a way that produces cash for the company and reinforces the reputation of the core. The business moderates itself while elevating its central tenant. The business, as a group of people, protect and reinforce their core. The extremes are shaved off, and the shavings fuel the core’s heat. A leanness develops. Health ensues, and time compounds the value.

By this means of intense moderation, profits are used to finance growth rather than owner effort, charisma, or outside funding (debt or equity.) Where the core development is unavailable, resources are distributed to owners for allocation elsewhere. The central core knows what it cannot use and fights bloat. The intensity of focus upon the core accelerates the flywheel and amasses energy used for slower but more stable growth rates. The mass of the flywheel is added only very slowly. Consistent, time-honed discipline marks the culture. From this core strength, other endeavors maybe only occasionally explored. Outside-energy moves in. Inside-energy moves out. Supervision of energy movement is upon the manager.

One ought to simultaneously possess a reputation greater than their core while disciplining themselves to shed able-to-perform work in an orderly way to protect their core, whilst simultaneously possessing a reputation for a very tight core, with which the action of shedding aids the approacher and builds the core.