Possibility and Enrollment

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses possibility and enrollment. What they mean and how they relate.

As we build our culture and teach our children, the notion of possibility is critically important. Possibility means when we invest the effort, something might come of it. Possibility also is about openness and fairness.

Today the richness we enjoy with literature, music, and knowledge became possible, not because they came naturally but because someone made them possible. We need to teach people to realize that better things are possible.

Enrollment is a critical element that is mostly missing from many human endeavors, such as education, marketing, and politics. Enrollment means that something we do is voluntary. When we do something that could turn into a possibility, it inevitably gets difficult. Enrollment is what pushes us through that difficulty.

Enrollment is hard because we need to commit. We need to bring grit to the table. The grit means showing up and facing possible rejection. The grit means to do it wrong, maybe over and over, before doing it right. The grit also means always trying to discover the best way forward.

We can think of how possibility and enrollment interact with the work we do in one of the four ways.

(High Possibility and High Enrollment). Entrepreneurship is one such example. We can imagine the possibility of coming out of the dip on the other side. We are also eager to put forth the effort required to get through the dip.

(Low Possibility and Low Enrollment) This usually results in some work that is too exotic or obscure to be valuable. Also, there is probably not a good system set up to facilitate those who want to take on this type of endeavor.

(Low Possibility and High Enrollment) Sports and acting are two such examples. Many people may want to be an NBA star but only very few succeed. This type of work usually requires some innate talent and a tremendous amount of preparation and practice.

(High Possibility and Low Enrollment) Nursing and many professionals fall into this category. The profession can be rewarding once we have mastered it, but relatively few people are willing to invest effort.

Learning and education work best when enrollment is high, but today’s education focuses mostly on compliance and outdated measurements. We have been teaching our children to get good grades or just to survive school, but neither leads to meaningful learning.

Leadership work is also a function of possibility and enrollment. Management work requires neither. The people who work for the manager are not necessarily seeing the possibility nor are they enrolled in the journey. They are just there to do their work and get paid.

A leader needs to show the people the possibilities from the change we seek to make and set up a system of enrollment for those who want to be on that same journey. When people are engaging with us to go somewhere, we are not sure it is going to work, we need a system of enrollment to help them. The cultural system we create for enrollment can reinforce the sense of enrollment. People like us are marching along and lining up toward this cause.

We can serve up the possibilities on a platter without enrollment, and people will probably take them. However, when going gets difficult, people probably will bailout.  The grit required for a worth-a-while journey is expensive, and not many people are willing to expend the energy to do something that might not work.

When we design a system for change, we need to build in-demand creation, the features, the benefits, and so on. We need those elements to communicate the possibilities that can come from the change. Just as importantly, we need to build a systemic cultural approach that creates enrollment. The system that makes it clear “People like us extend ourselves through things like this.” The system that shows us our status in the hierarchy and our position among the people we care about.

Creating possibilities and forming enrollment are hard work. Once we get on track, enrollment begets more enrollment and possibility begets more possibility. When we turn on the lights for ourselves, we do it for other people as well.