Success is a Flywheel, not a Propeller

Jim Collins in Good to Great describes the Flywheel Effect. Picture an enormous wheel like the London Eye, which weighs hundreds of tons and which requires a giant engine to spin.

Contrast the flywheel with an airplane propeller, which kicks in suddenly and reaches maximum speed within seconds.

Inexperienced entrepreneurs, as well as seasoned wishful thinkers are hoping, that a business is like a propeller. They are yearning for a silver bullet, the one thing that will kick rotation into high gear.

Friends and former peers often buttonhole me with the question: “Have you made ‘it'”? Did you get the “thing”? — Suggesting that business is binary, where you either stumble on a magic formula and become successful, or you don’t, in which case you are doomed. It certainly looks that way in soap operas and reality shows like Shark Tank or the Apprentice. Either you are a winner destined to succeed or a hopeless loser.

Unfortunately, (fortunately) business is more like a flywheel than a propeller. It takes time to get the wheel turning and every little push accelerates its movement. Of course, there is constant friction too, slowing things down. It takes persistent effort of pushing and seeking out small advantages to make the flywheel accelerate and eventually reach the speed of success. In business, it is the persistent, not the talented who has the “unfair” advantage.

The flywheel concept is one of the ideas underlying the Entrepreneurial Operating System®. EOS® generates “Traction”, read: disciplined and focused execution: The habit and accountability of regularly pushing the flywheel, until your business goes supersonic.

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