“Everything you’ve learned in school as “obvious” becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the universe. For example, there are no solids in the universe. There’s not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines.” – R. Buckminster Fuller
We live in a world where rules and regulations are multiplying every day. It’s as if the more complex the world becomes, the more rules we throw at it hoping that we’ll be able to make it function like a neat clockwork algorithm. And so it’s tempting when looking to start a new venture (personal, professional, or otherwise) to see the world, and particularly the developed world, as a rigid mesh of algorithms that cannot be bent. It is in part because of this belief for example that I quit my corporate job in the U.S. to start a business in an emerging economy seven years ago.
While this may seem so, it is not in fact true and I have since matured my perspective. The truth is that the algorithmic rules are executed by humans, who operate heuristically, regardless of country or nationality. And so, it is the human element that provides the opportunity for rigid bureaucratic rules to be bent and shaped to make room for new ventures. I’ve found in my own experience that I was able to apply a mindset of the possible to successfully undertake what most would term outright impossible.
Here’s but one example: in negotiating a market exclusive partnership between my small start-up and a huge multinational, I brought myself and a set of brochures of the highest content and finish quality and I (unintentionally) omitted to mention that we were a small start-up. I spoke with the passion of a CEO of a thousand strong company. The executive VP for continental European operations was so enamored by my speech that he overlooked to ask about our modest revenue, small team, and non-existent overhead resources. In the end, with a smile, we shook hands on the agreement and he mentioned that his lawyers would send the partnership agreement to my legal department. My legal department? Seriously?
And so, it does take an understanding of the “algorithms” involved, but most importantly, it takes an understanding of how to navigate the perceptions and expectations of people so they interpret the rules in your favor. I have since came to regard the world as “algoristic“, rigid and plastic at the same time – something lawyers, politicians and entrepreneurs have intuitively known since the beginning of time. If you have a strong enough will based in a mindset of the possible, the system can eventually be beaten at its weakest point.