Abundance, WIN/WIN and "enough-ness"
Why would Abundance be important to a business? Don’t
we, after all, want to beat the competition? As in:
WE win business over others and THEY lose?
That is one view of how things work. We think it is
a limiting view. The most important thing that we find
with Abundance and win/win thinking is that it opens
the doors to possibility and with possibility comes
Our definition of Abundance doesn’t mean that there
is far more of anything than any of us could possibly
use. It does mean “enough to go around; enough for all.”
It is the opposite of scarcity thinking which frequently
leads to this kind of attitude: ”Well, since there can’t
possibly be enough for us all, I’ve got to grab whatever
there is for me at the other’s expense, else I will
starve… “ (also known as WIN/LOSE).
In practice, Abundance means that you don’t have to
fight with someone to get ‘your share’; you can all
work win/win and go for the greatest benefit for everyone.
For example, in cases where only one organisation can
win a contract, perhaps you might join forces with another
and work together. Or you might recognise that another
organisation is better suited than you are to do a particular
piece of work with your client; abundance thinking enables
you to allow that organisation the opportunity to work
with your client – and your client to benefit from that
Indeed, with Abundance thinking you might see other
ways entirely of solving issues, which you could not
have seen before when applying a win/lose, deficit,
Abundance thinking is extremely important to us as a
business and, speaking personally, defines who I am.
I was introduced to this approach in the early 90’s
when a friend and mentor, Win Nystrom, recommended a
now well known book by Stephen Covey called ‘The Seven
Habits of Highly Effective People’ (see book review).
Antidote to deficit thinking
Abundance thinking is the opposite of deficit thinking.
It concentrates on what is working well, rather than
what isn’t working well. You can’t actually build on
what isn’t working, but you can build
upon and expand what is.
We’re taught to solve problems by dissecting them, by
reducing and condensing until we find the root cause
of what’s going wrong, what’s failing, what’s negative,
and then putting everything back together having ‘solved’
the root cause.
However, while this may work well for ‘mechanical’ problems,
where people are concerned it may not even work well
with simple problems. Once you begin to deal with complex
problems in the context of the larger system of which they
are a part, this doesn’t work. Looking for a single
cause and single solution to “what’s failing” in, say,
a large organisation simply isn’t tenable. First, it
may not be just one cause and second any one change
is likely to impact the entire system. Without considering
the entire system you can’t really solve the perceived
problem, the “failure”. That is why when one problem
is solved in isolation, frequently another one (or even
Taking the Abundance view, you concentrate on what is
working well within the larger system and see what is
missing – or preventing - the healthy whole from fitting
together. By keeping the healthy whole as your focus,
rather than the single perceived problem or failure,
a clearer picture emerges of the changes required –
which may or may not involve that original perceived
Room for possibility
Abundance thinking gives you room to expand and grow.
Instead of cutting and condensing, converging until
you find the one root of the ‘problem’ as described
above, abundance thinking allows you to take a positive,
open, holistic view.
Deficit thinking concentrates on the negative;
it shrivels enthusiasm and innovative solutions; it
concentrates on the past. Abundance thinking enables
you to see what is possible in the future: it opens
up different, creative, perhaps even radical routes
to successful solutions.
Rule No 6.
Rule No. 6 comes from Ben and Rosamund Zander’s book.
It is: Don’t take yourself so darn seriously!! It is
certainly something I need to keep reminding myself!
Rule No. 6 and its underlying message of being relaxed,
objective and positive is one of the foundation stones
of abundance thinking, as it encourages openness.
Possibility, change and innovation are much more likely
in this mindset than when deficit thinking is in play,
with its stress on worry, failure, lack and negativity.
Rule No. 6 reminds us that life – and business – is so
much more rewarding when we take part in a joyful state
of mind and spirit.
(By the way, if you are wondering about the other 5
rules, here’s the answer: there aren’t any. Remember
what Rule No. 6 says…?)
Abundance thinking is pragmatic and accepting: it starts
from where you are now and looks towards the future,
not back to the past. It recognises that you cannot
undo the past, but you can take what you have
now and use it to make the best you can for the future.
There is no place for blame in abundance thinking. At
worst there is a place to learn from what didn’t work
and to say, “How interesting!” as you plan what you
will try next.
Fair to all parties – fair is sustainable
Abundance thinking is fair to all parties and being
fair to all is the bedrock of sustainability and
with the premise that you CAN work win/win. Trust this
new way of thinking and act accordingly: it may feel
strange at first, but in our experience the results
are rewarding, enriching and inspiring.
Abundance thinking can change your life
When I first wanted to work in Nepal, I was told it
would be impossible because I had not done VSO work
in the past. I paid little attention and began to do
some volunteer work with an INGO (International Non-Governmental
Organisation). They paid only my expenses for the first
two months and after that we agreed that, if they wished
me to continue, they would pay for my work.
After the first two months, I was asked to continue.
I sat down with my boss, Michael, to discuss how we
would work this. I wanted to be paid fairly, but also
be affordable for him. So I shared with him what my
expenses were and between us we came up with a daily
rate that would work for both of us. It was enough to
cover my expenses and pay me a bit for my work and it
was a reasonable price for him too – one he could defend
to the board. My heart had been in my mouth when we
were negotiating – I’d never played win/win before –
but I was very happy with the outcome.
Many years later when we met again, Michael told me
how life-changing he had found that conversation. He
hadn’t noticed that I had been nervous; what he
DID recognise, immediately, was the rightness
of abundance thinking and how it shows equal respect
to all parties. That conversation, he told me, changed
the way he has worked and lived his life.
Necessary for today’s leadership
Things need to change – everyone hears this regularly
at the moment. One of the best things to change is your
attitude – from scarcity to abundance. Start looking
for abundance in your life. Start looking for win/win.
Start looking for those things you are grateful for;
what is going right for you. This is the kind of leadership
our world needs right now – expansive, emergent, abundant
and creative. If you keep doing what you’ve always done,
you’ll keep getting what you’ve always had… so let’s
change things, let’s open the door to possibility and
innovation. Let’s live in abundance! Go forth and multiply
© Patricia Lustig, 2009