I’ve given a lot of thought lately to power.
Our sociopolitical leaders treat ‘power’ like a four-letter word. They talk about power in the wrong hands, power-imbalances, power-hungry people, and systemic abuses of power–the derision goes on. And yet these people who denigrate power all seem to share something in common: they want power, badly. And they believe that to gain power, they must take it ‘back’ from someone who has it, as if it’s a commodity one can shift around like the very electricity that shares its name.
But power, and its application, leverage, are contextual. Imagine a brawny squad of 6’3” firefighters glistening with sweat riding atop a firetruck find themselves bursting into the middle of an active, definitely-not-on-fire-courtroom–the firefighters have little power in that context and everyone is wondering how the firefighters plan to repair the firetruck-sized hole they just put into the side of the courthouse, and yet, those same firefighters can exact tremendous leverage at an active fire.
They gain leverage when they find themselves in the right place, at the right time, and accompanied by the right equipment (in this case, perfectly sculpted biceps). And one missing ingredient can place their power at risk. For example, a team of firefighters arriving on time without a firehose have no power to wield over the flames raging through their neighborhood; they find themselves in a context where they cannot apply leverage.
Instead, firefighters must go where they’re needed, when they’re needed, and with what is needed; they go where a congruence of variables enables a context in which they have the power to affect great change: turn a burning building back into a safe one, stop a forest fire from destroying a countryside, or save Mrs. Whiskers from the tree she finds herself in every Tuesday.
When we go-to-market, we often think about whom we serve, how we serve them, where we find them, and why they choose us over the alternatives. But we can approach that process from another perspective, from a perspective of power. We can ask ourselves, metaphorically, which fires do we put out, how do we put them out, and how can we position ourselves as near to the fire as possible? (Start it yourself, of course!).
Bringing a viable solution to market which delivers value to customers and profit to you is the result of seeking situations in which you have power, and applying that power through leverage. In which metaphorical situation will the terrified townspeople turn to you and scream, “please, you glistening Adonis, save our babies from that burning building!”? Your situation may not share that level of drama, but you and your product have power. If you sell water, you have power in the desert, of that I’m certain.
Your job now is to acknowledge that fair profit is derived from applying lawful leverage. You have power, and your products have power. Find your fire, put it out, collect your reward.