188. Jordan Lams on Finding and Patiently Developing Your Entrepreneurial Focus

We define entrepreneurship in terms of people working creatively to make others’ lives better. That’s a very broad statement, of course, so it’s instructive to observe how individual entrepreneurs choose to make some customers’ lives better in some specific ways by applying special skills and knowledge. Let’s call it finding an entrepreneurial focus.

Economics For Business talks to Jordan Lams, founder and CEO of Moxie, an industry pioneer in manufacturing, branding, and distributing cannabis products.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights.

Entrepreneurs find their focus — or, sometimes, it finds them.

Bruce Lee is reported to have said that the successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus. Entrepreneurs develop focus on particular customers, in order to understand them better, empathize with their wants, and deliver them the experiences that they value. Developing this focus may take time, or it may come early in the journey, but empathy always provides the pathway.

Jordan Lams observed the pain of a family member during a time of illness, and how cannabis products could bring some relief and comfort. From that time, he became focused on the health and medical benefits of cannabis in a broad range of personal circumstances.

From a position of focus, entrepreneurs develop the deep knowledge that becomes their marketplace advantage.

Entrepreneurial focus directs research and knowledge gathering. In Jordan’s case, he gathered academic research, medical literature, and clinical studies, and he talked with medical practitioners about cannabinoid therapies. Networking brought him into contact with researchers and doctors and clinicians and product developers. He established a uniquely robust knowledge platform.

Focus plus knowledge leads to opportunity tension.

Some entrepreneurial theorists have coined the term opportunity tension — that period when an entrepreneur’s focus and knowledge point to a market opportunity, but there remains unresolved risk in the process of seizing it. The entrepreneurial solution, of course, is to take the risk. Jordan executed his commitment by taking a job in the retail sector of his chosen industry — a place to meet customers one-on-one, and look backwards at the supply chain.

Customer orientation is refined by direct contact, conversation, and experience.

Working in retail enabled direct customer contact and unfiltered conversations about customers’ preferences and wants, the benefits they sought compared to the benefits they experienced, and a general deepening of customer knowledge.

In addition, Jordan was able to observe the supply chain, including the interruptions and inconsistencies that detracted from customers’ experiences. Product quality was inconsistent and supply was unreliable. To an entrepreneur, this looks like opportunity.

Knowledge, experience, and customer contact provided the ingredient for a new firm and a new value proposition.

Jordan sums up the firm he founded, Moxie, as knowledge + infrastructure. A status quo of incomplete knowledge, inferior and inconsistent products in unreliable supply chains can be replaced by a new market of shared and distilled knowledge delivered via consistent and trustworthy quality. Customers are able to develop trust and confidence in a brand based on knowledge (“we know what we are doing”) that brings new maturity in the form of scale and process control and quality assurance to an emerging market category.

The company’s knowledge base enables vertical integration because the knowledge is broad and not narrow, the recruitment of strong partners because shared knowledge makes for robust collaboration, and new standards of quality, adherence to which strengthens customer expectations.

The firm’s foundation supports both R&D and open innovation.

All markets are changing at high rates of speed at all times. That’s why innovation is the essence of entrepreneurship. Standing still is a losing option. Jordan invests I R&D in the form of lab research (in pharmaceutical quality labs) exploring new product forms and new combinations, while also participating in the open innovation of knowledge sharing that goes on throughout the industry. R&D supports both specialization (making current offerings even better) and market expansion (new products, new forms).

Brand building will be the patient route to long term growth.

While business environments change fast, one way to invest with patience in a consistent direction is to build a brand. A brand can reflect customer values — the things that matter to them — in a way that creates lasting bonds. On its website, Moxie positions its brand as a force of character: courage, grit, determination, nerve. It provides an emotional connection to customers who value self-realization and self-actualization.

Patient entrepreneurs can see the regulatory maze as a locus of opportunity, too.

Moxie was the first licensed cannabis brand in California, and sees itself as a pioneer in leading institutional and regulatory progress. Instead of viewing regulators as business obstacles, Jordan employs his empathy skills to understand their position, their role, and their needs. He provides them with resources of information, industry knowledge and collaboration, and contributes where he can and where it’s appropriate to help them arrive at decisions and translate them into subsequent implementations.

As in building a company and building a brand, patience can pay off in future strength.

Additional Resources

Jordan Lams on LinkedIn:

186. Jared Wall: How a Courageous Entrepreneur Enters a Formative Market

How do new markets form? When consumers change their tastes and preferences and behaviors, how are the markets to serve them activated? The markets don’t yet exist — entrepreneurial action is required to create them. The answer to the question, of course, is that entrepreneurs — real people taking the real business risk to initiate new business experiments — provide the new energy and new initiative to create markets where previously they didn’t exist.

Jared Wall is one of these creative entrepreneurs, and is his creation.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights.

Courageous entrepreneurs lead the way into new markets as they are still forming.

Entrepreneurs bring the energy that opens new markets and new pathways to economic value. New markets can emerge as the result of changing consumer tastes and preferences, new channels or platforms, new forms of delivery, new technologies or a combination of several catalysts — but the energy, initiative and drive of the entrepreneur is always the necessary ingredient for the ultimate emergence of new value and new market arrangements.

New discoveries and new innovations often provide the entrepreneur with market-opening mechanisms.

Serving customers in new and different ways doesn’t always require new products and services, but it is often the case that the discovery or invention of novel combinations can lead to innovation — that is, new and better experiences for customers that were previously unknown or unavailable or narrowly distributed. In the market for consumable cannabis products, there emerged a new THC variant called Delta 8 THC, a cannabinoid that offered both different product performance and different accessibility. The emergent new ingredient provided the pathway to a whole new market opportunity.

Legislation and regulation are complications and barriers in formative markets, but often their ambiguity provides an opening for innovative entry.

The courageous entrepreneurs who lead the way into formative markets often encounter legislative and regulatory barriers, since these are static drags on progress and innovation and never keep up with the changes in markets. At the same time, the regulatory thicket can sometimes be useful to the entrepreneur who can cut a new opening others can’t imagine.

In the market for consumable cannabis products, Delta 8 THC became such a new opening, which was cut when some content in a comprehensive congressional Farm Bill encouraged the commercialization of certain kinds of hemp, of which Delta 8 THC was one of the by-products. Legislators and policy authors can’t think about the future the way entrepreneurs can, and they did not envision the future world of innovation they were unlocking.

The regulatory maze is an aspect of legislation and regulation — but every maze has an exit path.

Innovation in formative markets combines and compounds.

Jared Wall launched to offer Delta 8 THC experiences to consumers. Those who shop at the site find a lot more innovation than just this ingredient. There are multiple new consumable forms for varied experience delivery — gummies, chocolate bars, chewing gum, soft gels, and peanut brittle, among others.

Where do these innovations come from? Not from the R&D labs of major corporations, that’s for certain. They originate in the creative minds of imaginative entrepreneurs, and they take shape in their experiments and prototypes and willingness to try new things. Will they all be big successes? Of course not. But they will all generate feedback loops of acceptance or non-acceptance, reviews and ratings and experience sharing; they’ll contribute to innovation as an ongoing cycle of learning. Society enjoys better choices because entrepreneurs unleash their creativity and don’t hold back from experimental designs.

Market infrastructure and market institutions can’t always keep up with entrepreneurial change, but new supportive services quickly appear to lubricate frictions and provide institutional arbitrage.

All commerce needs infrastructure such as payment systems and institutions such as banks, and market formation can sometimes move faster than infrastructure and institutions can adapt. Jared Wall had this experience — PayPal and major banks cut off services because, while serving legitimate customers with legal products, was deemed a “high risk” business, outside their terms and conditions.

Yet, in a quite inspirational way, business services emerge in these situations to navigate around the barriers of poorly adapted institutions. Jared found consultants who offer the service of connecting so-called “high risk” businesses with value-network partners willing to collaborate with them. Jared was quickly able to replace his payment system and banking infrastructure. There was a service interruption, but it was temporary. A new network of mediating services quickly formed to bypass institutional barriers.

The creation and sharing of new information is a big part of the innovation equation.

Jesus Huerta De Soto1 identifies the creation and sharing of new information as the central activity of entrepreneurs – informing customers of new products and services and new offerings and prices. Entrepreneurs are constantly creating, updating, and improving the information resources they make available to customers. High quality information enhances value.

On, Jared provides information in Q&A form, pull-down menus, and product descriptions. He’s self-published an informative e-book that’s free on the site, and he publishes an informative newsletter. We can sometimes feel unclear about the value of information, but in formative markets its importance is primary not secondary.

185. Jessica Fialkovich On The Business Of Selling Businesses

Every business should have an exit plan in mind from Day 1. Why? Because it’s impossible to control the timing of an exit or the changes in circumstances that might precipitate it. Venture capitalists know this, and build in their exit formulas at the time of their initial funding. Entrepreneurs should think the same way. And, like any business process, selling a business is a knowledge-based process that repays an investment in learning its techniques and critical success factors. Economics For Business talked to Jessica Fialkovich, a successful business builder in her own right, who founded Exit Factor, an advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs get the most from selling their businesses.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

Entrepreneurship provides better career control and security than corporate life.

Jessica climbed the corporate ladder, investing effort and skill into being a great employee. But she was just a name on a list when the GFC came along – a list of those to be let go when Lehman Brothers (her employer’s funder) collapsed.

She realized that entrepreneurship provided her with great security. There’s uncertainty, but the entrepreneur decides what their future is, takes responsibility for those decisions, and accepts the accountability.

She built a successful business through hard work and the discovery process of identifying target customers and finding new and better ways to bring them value. Her chosen business was in wine sales to wine-loving customers, many of whom were connoisseurs. She developed many specialized services including finding rare wines for collectors, and her clientele spanned the globe. She incorporated the latest technologies and innovated in marketing techniques. She worked long hours, talking to customers across 16 time zones from Japan to California.

Then she decided to sell.

Entrepreneurs experience a lot less support when selling a business than when building it.

When you’re successfully growing a business, everyone wants to help, providing you with business services and supplies, and advice and ideas. What Jessica found when she came to sell was that she was on her own. It was hard to find expert help, or the requisite resources, or pretty much any kind of support infrastructure for a transaction of the size she was planning. For big business, there’s investment banking. For the 99.9% of businesses outside the Fortune 500, there was nothing similar. There were some so-called business brokers, but they were not dedicated specialists, not professionals in the specific process of selling, unreliable and poor at client service.

As an alert entrepreneur, Jessica understood that this finding signaled a market need.

The first step to design for an under-served market is to draw on relevant experience from parallel markets.

Business development always starts with first principles: is there a market to be served, in that some potential customers feel an unmet need or have a meaningful problem to be solved? Jessica had first-hand knowledge of the problem, and talking to entrepreneurs in similar situations reinforced her confidence in the market’s potential.

The comparison market Jessica chose was investment banking, which can be thought of as selling businesses of a larger scale. There’s an established investment banking process and a timeline of steps and milestones from preparing an evaluation, to developing the pitch deck, to the identification of the best buyers and the tailoring of a marketing plan for them. Jessica’s husband had some relevant investment banking experience which enhanced the knowledge transfer from one field to another, and provided a reality check for the process design.

Business-to-business services development and execution has its own set of rules; the most important one is the nurturing of relationships.

A business brokerage is a high-intensity B2B service bundle requiring a lot of in-person customized relationship management. There’s pitching the potential customers in the first place, customizing the service tom their particular business and to meet their specific needs, with a big need for staff training to deliver these specialized services. B2B service providers must be both sales experts and process experts. That requires a lot of human capital.

Jessica’s answer was to design and build a system-based model that, once in place, could be repeated and reproduced via well-trained staff with the right IT support.

She has found B2B services to be even more demanding than sourcing rare wines for connoisseurs. Selling a business is somehow more personal and individual. A client’s perception of what their business is worth may be quite different than the market’s perception. It’s the nurturing of relationships that smooths out the potential jagged edges in these transactions.

Some insights for entrepreneurs selling their business.

  • Identify your exit options from Day 1 of your business. Since it’s impossible to control exit timing – which may be due to unforeseen changes in circumstances – it’s best to lay the runway from the start. Plan to run a salable business, as well as one that’s profitable and growing. Don’t have a fire sale or panic sale or be unprepared.
  • Tailoring your selling process to the size and type of your business is important. There are different influences on what moves valuations up or down depending on business size, but, in all cases, it’s a process with a beginning, a middle and an end to be planned for in advance. You’ve got to know how to find buyers, how to source offers, and how to keep your business in good shape for due diligence.
  • Conduct regular health checks for evaluation. Always know what your business is worth. Find out how businesses are valued in your industry or sector. Make sure your business shows well on the criteria that are applied in your field.
  • EBITDA multiples are the dominant valuation metric. You may read in the Wall Street Journal about businesses being acquired for brand value, or for technology integration, or for other reasons of corporate M&A strategy. For small and medium size businesses, EBITDA multiples remain the dominant metric. There’s some art regarding what the precise multiple may turn out to be, but it’d within a range and is not going to vary wildly.
  • There is some room for qualitative factors and subjective valuation. Jessica listed subjective factors ranging from the degree of business involvement of the owner (and the worry that their future absence might be detrimental) to the perceived quality of the brand and its imagery and reputation.
  • The ultimate asset is a proven and scalable business model. If you can demonstrate that your business model returns increases in revenue and profit growth for additional investments in capital or people or marketing, then you are most likely to find an eager buyer. Make sure you can model your business in this way and that the data are clean and credible.

Additional Resources

Getting The Most For Selling Your Business by Jessica Fialkovich:

Jessica on LinkedIn:

184. Rick West: When B2B Goes Click-To-Cart

Do the principles of customer value generation that we espouse in our Economics For Business program apply equally for both B2C and B2B businesses? The answer is emphatically yes. B2B customers are seeking subjective value and a value experience just as B2C customers are. They have a clear sense of the things that matter to them, and those include emotional and personal values as well as price and functionality and performance.

In fact, trends that begin in the B2C domain often quickly begin to influence the B2B domain, and the alert entrepreneur can track those trends in B2C and establish an early advantage by exploring them for their business customers. Rick West has done exactly that with his business services company, Field Agent.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

In addition to identifying a meaningful problem, and providing an effective innovative solution, entrepreneurs in today’s B2B market must offer the right service delivery platform.

Rick West created a company called Field Agent to provide B2B customers with a meaningful service: monitoring their retail stores and shopper behavior and collecting in-store data about the interactions of shoppers, stores, shelves, displays and products. This kind of information is high value for both the retail operators (like Walmart) and the companies that sell products through retail stores (such as Procter and Gamble or The Coca-Cola Company). The set of services often goes by the terminology of “shopper marketing”.

Typically, such business service offerings have a long and cumbersome sales cycle. The service provider and the service client get in contact, there are meetings, prices are negotiated, and contracts are prepared and signed. Then, once the service is executed, there are more steps in analytics and preparation of presentations of findings, and another big meeting to discuss the findings and recommendations. Lots of meetings, lots of travel, lots of time, lots of lawyers.

Is this the right service delivery platform? It’s been virtually institutionalized over time. But it’s not a good fit with modern business models and the modern technology-shaped environment.

The Amazon effect.

Think about purchasing on a shopping platform like The customer first self-educates. If there’s a complex product to buy – such as an expensive flat screen HDTV with internet connectivity and interaction with all the latest entertainment ecosystem devices like Roku and streaming services like Apple TV – the customer might search for information via google, might visit some ratings sites, do some comparison shopping, and generally collect information to get to the point where they are confident of making a purchase. They don’t need to speak to an HDTV salesperson or a “customer success manager” or to sign a paper contract.

Or think of a slightly more complex transaction such as buying a car on Vroom. There are some contracts to be signed via DocuSign, but confident shoppers are comfortable with self-educating, making their decision, committing, and experiencing the delivery of the car to their home, perhaps with the added service of taking away their old one.

This is the world of services and service delivery we live in today. Your B2B customer also has a life as a consumer and an internet shopper, and is fully aware of the efficiency, convenience, and safety of these kinds of transactions. Call it the amazon effect: customers becoming comfortable with the “click-to-cart” experience, without interpersonal interaction with a salesperson or other service personnel.

Why not in B2B services?

Click-to-cart has arrived in B2B services.

Rick West’s customers for Field Agent services can purchase them on A full array of shopper marketing services is offered via pull-down menus in categories such as Audits, Marketing, and Insights. Under these headings are Display Photography, Price Check, Shelf Management, Price Sensitivity Study, and dozens more, all in the language of shopper marketing that’s well understood by the knowledgeable B2B service buyer.

Clicking on any one of these takes the client to a price list and a detailed description of the service and its output, all in the colorful and engaging presentation style of an e-commerce site (like!) The client can create an account online and make a transaction just as easily as buying a TV on amazon (and probably easier than buying a car on Vroom).

Self-educated buyers know exactly what they want, and the description and designation of the services are crisp and clear. Clients can check out testimonials, comparison shop, and take all the steps any smart B2B service purchaser would take to get themselves to the point of confidence and trust.

Some customized services will always be a client requirement, but there will be a rapid shift to more and more self-service.

Some clients and some projects will always require a custom, tailored response, and Rick’s company has both custom service and automated service capabilities. One point he makes is that a first project might be customized and accompanied by in-person client service, while for the second or repeat purchase, the client will be comfortable with the click-to-cart process.

Rick’s guessing a 70:30 split for automated versus customer services over time in his field, especially as the interface software learns and becomes better and better at responding to client needs and preferences.

B2B entrepreneurs are trend-spotters in the B2C domain.

People are people. Economic behaviors that we can observe in consumer shopping and buying are bound eventually to show up in business-to-business markets. They’re the same people – your B2B client is a consumer when not at work. Smart B2B entrepreneurs keep an eye open for B2C trends that can be expected to transfer to B2B and jump on them early.

Additional Resources

Field Agent:


Rick West on LinkedIn:

182. Gordon Miller: What’s Your Absorptive Capacity for User-Generated Innovation?

It’s often the case that lead users — the most sophisticated, committed, and energetic users — are an excellent source of innovation ideas. Those customers who are most engaged are thinking the most intensely and the most creatively about what they want from the usage experience. We came across a particularly instructive example: video game modders. Who are modders, what do they do, and what can we learn from them? Professor Gordon Miller has studied this important entrepreneurial phenomenon, and he joins Economics for Business to share his knowledge.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights.

Modding is user-generated value innovation.

Modding, from modifying, is the act of a changing a game, usually through computer programming, with software tools that are not part of the game. This can mean fixing bugs, modifying content to improve it, or adding content. But modding is not an activity taken on by those at game companies—developers release patches and downloadable content, not mods. Modding is instead done by players and fans of the game… Modding is more than adjusting the preferences or game settings, it is making changes that cannot be made through the game as it is.

Game producers and designers enable and encourage this user innovation.

Game producers have come to recognize that the creative ideas and initiatives of the modding community can contribute new value to their businesses and franchises. Games like Minecraft enable users to explore, within a predesigned GUI, a practically endless 3-dimensional world to build innovative structures and other things like functional computers and console emulators. Minecraft also makes available code and tools for modders to create mods that are essentially new games, or major innovations within the original game. The famous DOTA (“Defense Of The Agents”) game is entirely the product of the modding community, encouraged and enabled by the developer, Valve Software.

Modding is a practical application of the theory of absorptive capacity.

Absorptive capacity refers to the capability of a firm to recognize, collect, assimilate, process, transform and use external knowledge for competitive advantage in innovation, flexibility, and overall business performance. The external sources of knowledge are knowledge networks, either formal or informal or a combination of both. Formal networks might include suppliers and partners, university research departments and labs, and even industry share groups. It’s sometimes called open innovation — actively looking at and tapping into what other firms are doing.

Informal networks are those like the modder community — lead users, user groups, tinkerers, and so on. This is sometimes referred to as distributed innovation or user innovation — it’s not the producer originating the innovation, but an external informal source.

The challenge is to be able to generate awareness of these sources of knowledge, evaluate them, bring them inside to the company for evaluation and processing, and turn them into useful innovations or internal changes.

In highly dynamic industries, it is productive to tap into these knowledge networks.

Professor Miller refers to the external networks of knowledge, both formal and informal, as the wisdom of the crowd. If you are operating in an environment characterized by high dynamism and rapid change, the wisdom the of crowd is an important and often decisive resource.

  1. The wisdom of the crowd can contribute to innovation and business performance, especially in the form of idea diversity.
  2. Innovation performance improves through better firm capitalization of knowledge resources.
  3. The wisdom of the crowd offsets firm rigidity — making it more receptive to new ideas,
  4. Entrepreneurial judgment can increase innovation performance by increasing absorptive capacity.
  5. Innovation performance feeds back into absorptive capacity, creating an iterative self-improvement loop.

Professor Miller proposes three areas of business development by capitalizing on external user groups.

First, firms struggling to innovate due to internal rigidities may well benefit from developing communities — similar in concept to modding communities – connected to their own industries. By absorbing and incorporating the learning that occurs in such groups, they can take advantage of readily available innovative ideas for change.

Second, these communities may also provide a wellspring of talent for enhancing the firm’s absorptive capacity in useful ways. This is a pool of unique and entrepreneurial individuals with the potential to enhance the firm’s human capital and make the firm more explorative.

Third, even if the firm does not fully tap in to all the knowledge coming from the community, there is still the potential for new solutions to emerge that are stimulated by external ideas. There are always hobbyists and fans, and technology easily facilitates their interactions. Crowdsourced knowledge provides a uniquely useful tool for enhancing organizational innovation.

The wisdom of the crowd is a path to profit.

Modding as an art form allows players to express what they most want games to be. This becomes a useful indicator for determining the most profitable paths to pursue. Firms seeking to enhance their innovative capabilities and remain profitable must pay attention to external sources of learning, however informal.

Additional Resources

Download our free E4B PDF: “Assessing Your Firm’s Absorptive Capacity”:

The Invisible Hand In Virtual Worlds: The Economic Order of Video Games by Matthew McCaffrey:

181. Brian Rivera on the Flow System

The traditional approaches to the structure and management of firms are becoming barriers to customer value. The Austrian capital theory approach recognizes that all value in the corporation flows to it from the value experiences of customers. Therefore traditional organizational design — centralization, hierarchies, divisions, bureaucracy, command-and-control — insofar as they are poorly aligned with customer value actually detract from the value of the firm.

There are alternative approaches to business organization, several of which we have highlighted in Economics For Business. One well-articulated alternative is The Flow System ( We talk to one of the authors of the concept, Brian Rivera.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

The first principle of all business organization is the delivery of customer value.

The superiority and broad applicability of the Austrian business model emanates from its value-dominant logic. The purpose of business is to facilitate a value experience on the part of the customer. Only value matters, and all else (resources employed, raw materials used, production costs, organization, supplier partnerships, etc.) follows. Austrian capital theory enables managers to identify value drivers (i.e. what resources, raw materials, production costs, organization, partnerships result in the most value for customers).

The focus of the Flow System is to deliver the best value to the customer through FLOW: the interconnection of complexity thinking, distributed leadership, and team science.

Flow is another term for entrepreneurial judgment.

In Brian Rivera’s book, The Flow System, flow is described as “a narrative of in-the-moment decision making of judgments”. It is entrepreneurial action and interaction with the environment, irrespective of structure. It’s goal-oriented adaptive and collaborative behavior of teams and firms.

The Austrian perceptions of the market as a flow, value as a flow and capital as a flow mean that the Austrian business model is perfectly consistent with The Flow System.

Mastering complexity thinking is fundamental to implementing the flow system.

Many business environments exhibit high variability and uncertainty. We’ve used the term VUCA to characterize them: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. All business managers and entrepreneurs can benefit from adopting a complexity world-view, and understanding business as a complex system.

Complex adaptive systems are open, continuously dynamic, evolving, learning, and responsive to external changes. They can oscillate between order and disorder, they’re non-linear and can’t be predicted or controlled.

Brian Rivera highlights a number of techniques to manage in such an environment, including:

Sensemaking: the development of narratives or storytelling to conceptualize the complex environment and develop an appropriate set of mental models. The question to ask is, “What’s the story?” — the story that can unite the firm and its partners around a shared understanding and shared purpose.

Weak signal detection: in complexity, signals are never clear; uncertainty is the norm and errors are always a possibility. Weak signal detection is simply intensifying the scnning of the environment for insights and noticing more, so that both threats and opportunities can be detected earlier to avoid surprise.

Action: the only source of real knowledge about the world is experience, and experience results from action. Therefore, The Flow System emphasizes action — the D and the A in the OODA loop.

The Flow System employs a new definition of leadership: distributed leadership.

Distributed leadership is described as leadership that extends horizontally, vertically and every place between. The tools of leadership are not structures (such as hierarchy and top-down management) but methods:

  • Psychological safety
  • Active listening
  • Intent
  • Shared mental models
  • Bias towards action
  • Collaboration
  • Mentoring.

Perhaps the most essential factor is psychological safety among team members. It’s a group property — a shared belief in which the team is safe from interpersonal risk taking. Individuals can speak up, take risks, and experiment without fear of criticism or reprisal so long as every action fits within the shared belief framework. There is no command structure, and teams are the building blocks of the organization.

There’s a new field of team science for collaborative functioning in the workplace.

Team science is multi-disciplinary. Teams are necessary for the development of solutions in many problem areas, and the research behind team science has been conducted in many fields (ecology, healthcare, organizational science, psychology and more).

A team is a collection of individuals with a shared goal, who interact and are interdependent in their tasks, who have different roles while sharing responsibility for outcomes, and constitute a social entity embedded in a larger system (a business unit or corporation) requiring them to manage relationships across organizational boundaries.

A major section of the book The Flow System is devoted to an overview of the current state of team science as it relates to business organizations, covering team size and composition, teamwork, team processes and team transitions, team culture, team effectiveness, and combining teams for multi-team scaling.

Here’s a sample concerning the functions of shared leadership in a team:

  • Compelling team purpose — exceeding individual goals.
  • Members work jointly to integrate their complementary talent and skills.
  • Outcomes are collective, joint efforts.
  • Members adapt their working approach to each other.
  • Mutual accountability plus individual accountability.

Core principles and attributes of The Flow System.

  1. Customer first
  2. Value is a flow
  3. Complexity thinking, distributed leadership and team science can facilitate the flow when they are interconnected and synchronized.

Additional Resources

E4B Knowledge Graphic — “The Flow System Guide” (PDF):

The Flow System by by John Turner, Nigel Thurlow, and Brian Rivera:

Teams That Work: The Seven Drivers Of Tea Effectiveness by Scott Tannenbaum and Eduardo Salas: