How to Approach Business Challenges By “Breaking the Rules!”

by Joanne Steele on November 10, 2009

breakingrulesI’m worried about you.

You’ve probably been hanging on by your fingernails for a year and a half during the worst recession since the 1930’s.

You’re trying to keep your business going to support your own family, and you feel deep personal responsibility for the families of your employees.

Even knowing that what we are all experiencing is a global problem, it’s easy to see our own business crisis as a personal shortcoming.

We keep ourselves up at night going over and over “What’s wrong!”

To turn ourselves and our businesses around, it’s time to change the question.

Kurt Wright in his landmark book, Breaking the Rules shows us that the time we spend kicking ourselves around the block is contributing to our problems not helping us to solve them.

He illustrates his point with example after example of businesses that made dramatic recoveries by focusing attention on “What’s right!”

If your thoughts and attitudes are a form of energy, he points out, then electrical energy is a good model to observe.

Electrical energy moving along a wire creates a magnetic field. An electromagnetic field is used to create more energy. And so, the analogy goes, create a “what’s wrong” energy field around your efforts and what do you get more of???

I read a study several years ago that also illustrates the importance of where we put our focus and attitude. A group of beginners were taken bowling. Their games were filmed. The group was then split in two. One group was shown their video while a bowling expert pointed out everything they did wrong. In the other group, the expert helped them see everything that they had done right.

Without any more practice, the two groups bowled another round.

Guess which group made a significant improvement in their game. You got it. The group that was focused on what they were doing right.

This is not about being an ostrich, refusing to accept that there are problems. It’s about how to focus your entrepreneurial energy in a way that will create positive change for your business (and oh by the way… in your life).

Here’s the series of questions Kurt Wright suggests you ask to get to a turnaround solution:

1. What do I know is already RIGHT? The agenda setting question.
2. What is it that makes it RIGHT? The energy generating question.
3. What would be ideally RIGHT? The vision-building question.
4. What’s not yet quite RIGHT? The gap-filling question.
5. What resources can I find to make it RIGHT? The action-engaging question.

I was introduced to Kurt Wright’s work seven years ago by a business coach I worked with for a year. I learned many things from Doug Carter, and the most profoundly life and business-changing lesson was approaching problems from the positive.

I checked, and Wright’s book is still available at It’s one book that won’t gather dust on your shelf – I reread it yearly just to keep on track. And this recommendation comes without any personal gain on my part.

1 Roger December 15, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Did you say that a team of people from Dunsmuir found 40 things that were being done right?

Is there a place in here where you discuss those 40 things?

2 Joanne Steele December 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

The Dunsmuir Revitalization Committee will be publishing the results of this process in January, including their work plan for the next year. As a member of the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce, you will receive more information then.

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