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  • Writer's pictureMike Brown

The Tangled Slinky

The slinky! Beloved toy! Remember your first one? It brought joy! Until it got tangled and twisted up. Then it brought frustration.


This morning, my three-year-old daughter’s shiny new purple slinky got tangled. "It's broken," she said, looking disappointed.


Daddy can fix it, I thought!


If you're chuckling right now, I get it! You've probably been there, struggling with a tangled slinky for one of your little ones. But hear me out.


First, I assessed the situation. Oh, this looks simple, I thought. The coils of the slinky were simply tangled in the middle. If I just pull the slinky from the sides to stretch out the coils it should untangle the middle.


NOPE. The harder I pulled and stretched the slinky, the worse it seemed to get!


My beautiful wife observed, "you look confused." Of course, like always, she was right!


At this moment, I had three choices: give up, get mad and pull even harder on the slinky, or try a new approach.


I paused, relaxed, took a couple of breaths, and decided to work with the inherent physics of the slinky. The slinky wants to twist and coil neatly and harmoniously. It's always human intervention that tangles it. All I had to do was empower the slinky to be a slinky.


Instead of pulling from the sides, I rotated the coils from the spot of the tangle toward the edges. I felt little resistance, and it worked! The slinky was back to its original form, ready for my daughter to enjoy again.


Proud of myself, I happily handed the slinky back to her and got a "thanks, daddy!" which of course made it all worth it.

What's the business lesson here?


Business is like a slinky. It is simple and brings joy, especially when it's shiny and new. Yet humans usually make business complex and break it.

Milton Friedman was wrong. Business isn’t only about making money for shareholders. The focus on only profits is actually what is tangling up businesses!


For decades, business schools and the market have taught executives that in times of trouble, the right thing to do is cut people and take as much as they can from the planet. This is like stretching a slinky harder and harder. It's going to break the business. Companies that try to protect profits by hurting people and the planet almost always go out of business in this modern era.


Business instinctively wants to create a win-win for the people and the planet that it depends on to be in business in the first place.


Extracting value from our natural resources and human talent only "worked" for so long. It doesn’t work anymore. People and the planet are demanding businesses to work with them, not against them.


Building your business with a triple-bottom-line approach to serve the planet, people, and profits is the way forward.


Strategic Purpose Planning goes a long way in untangling a business. It's my passion and expertise! I'd love to help you or a company you know.

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