Be the best possible key for the right lock
The first premise of this book outlined the vital role of energy gain for all organisms. Without energy there can be neither work nor movement and life cannot exist. Every organism must therefore be structured in a manner that allows it to gain energy.
Regardless of what that energy source looks like, it can be compared with the money safe. Every organism relies on being able to open such a safe. Having the correct key fulfills the first prerequisite for survival and further development. But it is by no means a free pass. If a beetle is squashed by a falling rock, then its potentially excellent energy-gaining capabilities are irrelevant. Nonetheless, every organism that can tap energy has fulfilled the basic requirement for what we know as “life”.
More highly developed animals can learn, i.e. they can improve their behavior based on experience. Nonetheless, they must make do with the bodies they were born with. Some organs can be adapted to particular environmental conditions or recurring events, such as muscles that develop more strongly if they are frequently used. Even the ability to learn, however, does not enable an animal to produce additional organs. In the lock-and-key analogy, they are incapable of significantly modifying the key that their body represents. Unlocking or extracting energy means a chance to survive and reproduce. Failing to do so means elimination (Fig. 13).
Fig. 13: The lock-and-key determination. Every organism, every
worker, and every business (company) must exhibit a positive energy balance.
They must extract more energy from environmental sources, either directly
or via money, than their overall activity requires. Their relationship
to that energy source corresponds to that of a key to a lock that needs
opening (Energon theory). The bit of the key must mirror the lock mechanism.
The lock contributes no energy at all to producing the key, but nonetheless
still determines the configuration of that bit (see text for details).
(Schloß-Schlüssel Beziehung...lock-and-key relationship, Determination der Struktur...determination of the structure, Schlüsselbart...bit of the key, Mechanismus ds Schlosses...lock mechanism)
Who, we may ask, is responsible for shaping the bit of the key, or – to use a business term – the performance profile? Perhaps the process can best be illustrated by examining how real keys are made. If I commission a locksmith to make a key for an existing lock, then who created the key bit?
On the one hand, the locksmith of course. He cut and polished the bit and physically produced the key. The key is definitely his piece of work.
On the other hand, the locksmith bears no responsibility for that bit’s actual shape. After all, he merely fashioned it so that it precisely fit the mechanism. He or she therefore had no leeway in cutting the bit. Although the lock in no way actively participated in producing the key, it nonetheless dictated its particular shape.
Perhaps it helps to go underwater to spawn such ideas, but my diving activities as a researcher in coral reefs literally compelled me to formulate these thoughts. Each and every colorful and improbably shaped fish that I encountered was a key that was capable of unlocking some energy source. The manner in which each fish moved across the reef was proof of this capability: it sought its prey with great agility and fled with lightning speed when danger approached.
The prey – the food devoured piecemeal or swallowed whole – was the energy source. Yet who created the fish’s shape and determined the organization of its body? In the locksmith case, the lock mechanism defined what shape the bit had to have in order to open the door. For the coral reef fish that swam past my mask, the prey was the lock that had to be opened. The prey’s shape and structure, where it tended to hide, and how it behaved determined the predator’s features and, ultimately, whether it was capable of consuming that prey.
Early humans, high and dry on land, were the only organisms that proved capable of improving their own bodies with additional, artificial organs. Their energy source, just as in the coral reef fishes, was also food in the form of plants or other animals. Their additional organs – stone missiles, bows and arrows, pit traps and, today, rifles – enabled them to far surpass animal competitors. We have since shifted our strategy to indirectly procuring food though transactions. We now specialize in producing certain additional organs or providing certain services, sell these to interested persons, and then purchase food harvested by others with the money gained from the transaction. Or we buy the services or some other product that others produce.
The process is actually somewhat more complicated. Essentially, in the first transaction, one key (a product or service) was used to purchase another, namely money. And this universal key could then be used to purchase food or to satisfy virtually every other need.
Earning money required satisfying a need. The person with his or her needs or requirements therefore becomes the lock that must be opened. What configuration does the key bit have to have? Who determined the necessary “performance profile”? Clearly the customers. Their specifications determine whether they were willing to part with their money.
These considerations led me to study human organization, in particular human energy gain. I investigated energy-gaining systems, regardless of whether they were plants, animals, employees or businesses. The goal was to determine whether these so very different expressions of life could be comparatively evaluated based on energetic considerations. Might the full range of shapes and structures be explainable based on the same rules and laws?
For us, few decisions are as important as choosing our profession – what we will do to earn the money we need to live and prosper. The crucial consideration in business transactions is customer satisfaction. Therefore, I cannot tailor my goods or services to my own wishes and desires, but rather to those of my business partners. They are the lock and they determine – without so much as lifting a finger – what I should be selling in order to make the deal. Rather than relying on the wisest of teachings, I must judge the customer’s reaction to determine what I can sell.
The practical conclusion of this train of thought, which was born in a coral reef and presented here in a greatly simplified version, is cut and dry: successful businesspeople cannot concentrate on themselves and their problems, but must focus on their clients. The more successfully you help them solve their problems, the greater your own benefit. They are the lock, you the key.
This relationship ultimately determines how we must proceed in order to successfully tap energy through transactions. The first step is to determine: what kind of key am I? What capabilities and means do I have? What does my performance profile – my “key bit” – look like?
The second question can only follow after the first is clarified: what locks can my key open? Who are my ideal partners in the transactional process – what needs, whether they be products or services, can I fulfill?
The subsequent course of events is then largely predetermined. The intelligent person can actively seek out the ideal partner, someone that he or she can supply with goods or services better than all others. Once the fit has been established, the future prospects are good. In the natural environment, successful animals and plants are those that best reflect, and that best adapt to, the energetic framework. Not actively, but passively, because the less “fit” fall by the wayside. The business environment is no different. Once a key has matched a particular lock, then the lock controls subsequent development here as well. When mutual advantages are involved, then this control is not merely passive and the process accelerates. It is in the customer’s own interest to support suppliers that fulfill his or her requirements.
My “Energon” book summed it up by stating: “the shoemaker’s key is the shoe he or she produces. The lock that needs opening – the energy source – is the demand for that specific product. The shoemaker satisfies that need by fashioning the product, and the partner in this exchange is willing to part with some portion of his or her energetic potential in order to purchase that product. Specifically, the customer hands over money – credit for a virtually unlimited number of human services.”
On the question of whether the manufacturer (or inventor) determines the utility and market success of some particular item, I wrote: “No, that person does not decide. This decision is determined by demand. Products that correspond to the customers’ wishes, i.e. products that are purchased, have utility and are competitive. The buyer, the person who seeks the product, is the energy source in this transactional process. Thus, the source of the energy controls the configuration of the key here as well. It controls which product is successful, it – the energy source, the buyer – controls the transactions of the suppliers.”
On the issue of whether such control processes function automatically, I wrote: “If I drink Coca-Cola or Gordon’s Gin, then I do this not because I wish to promote the owners or stockholders of those companies, but because I like the taste of their drinks. As a general rule: the customer is not interested in exerting influence on the company whose products he or she buys. The customer merely wishes to satisfy a need – nothing more, nothing less. Nonetheless, the customer still manages to control the company’s development!” The logical conclusion was: “We cannot dictate what products succeed on the market. This is primarily determined by demand, by the energy source that must be tapped. Disruptive or hostile “environmental” influences can also exert control: government regulations, for example, can influence what is successful and what isn’t”.
I also pointed to direct influences on the market:
“One unique feature of humans is that they themselves can influence demand, for example through advertising. This means that the key no longer needs to mesh with the lock. Rather, the lock is modified such that an existing key can open it. From an evolutionary perspective, this is a highly unusual and novel process40.”
Mewes was among the first to consider my very theoretically structured book and the Energon theory it espoused. His teaching and consulting activities in the business sector had led him to arrive at many similar conclusions. He drew the practical consequences from the lock-and-key analogy and from the controlling influence of energy sources that I had outlined. In 9 fundamental laws (“strategic phases”) that became the backbone of the EKS system, he methodically and rigorously pointed out how to conduct business so that the key finds the correct lock. He showed how the controlling effect of the target group then initiated a “self-organization” process. The strategic concept he developed was – fully in the sense of my theory – equally valid for employees and for businesses; it is applicable for necessary realignments, for choosing a career, or for determining the orientation of a newly founded company.
The first step is to more closely examine the aptitude profile, the bit of the key as it were, of the person offering his or her services. The EKS very cleverly subdivides this analysis into three groups of questions that every client – without outside help – can apply to his or her situation using a questionnaire and simple instructions. First, the candidate is called on to create a comprehensive and uncritical inventory: “What particular aptitudes do I or my business have?” Determining the status quo is crucial, and Mewes very skillfully recorded not only business capabilities, problem-solving experience, available resources and social connections, but also incorporated wishes and desires in this inventory. After all, we are so deeply entrenched in traditional expectations and rigidly defined professions that we often consider our desires to be pipe-dreams. At the same time, the candidates may harbor motivations and talents that would provide a solid foundation for a successful career. As a corrective element designed to keep the candidate on solid ground, the EKS poses the question, “How do others see me?”
Mewes writes, “Discuss with trusted friends what special talents they see in you and what tasks they think you handle especially well”. “For example, job seekers should attempt to determine why they have been ranked higher than others in job interviews or why they were hired. These traits can then be consciously reinforced. Businesses, on the other hand, should ask job applicants and clients, in an appropriate manner, what motivated them to choose that particular company. Long-term clients and employees should be asked why they stay”.
This first strategic step yields a list of more or less
realistic specific abilities and possibilities.
The second step involves searching for the most promising area of expertise, i.e. defining “special skills”. A crucial aspect here is the inner dialogue and, if need be, input from friends: where am I better than the competition? What special talents can I nurture to get a better head start?
A quick look at plant and animal evolution clearly reveals the radical difference to the business world. Whereas every plant and every animal must make do with its body, we can rapidly adapt to environmental changes with additional organs and new control mechanisms. Over history, the number of occupations and professions was actually quite limited. Today, however, the opportunities to earn money by serving others have exploded. The only prerequisite is recognizing the underlying needs and desires.
In a third step, the EKS program raises the question: What problems in what target group am I in a unique position to solve? Where can I find the greatest demand for my services?
Mewes lists numerous examples of how people make the mistake of choosing problems that are too large and then find themselves unable to quickly develop a distinctly better solution. The biggest mistake is not to focus narrowly enough on the most promising piece of the cake.
The final four “phases” in finding the right career or the appropriate business sector ask: What locks can my key open best? What target group can I serve the best?
Again, Mewes very methodically begins by compiling an uncritical inventory of the possibilities and then narrows the choices down to a realistic range. The criteria are “realistic problems that realistic target groups have” rather than “opinions” or “scientific theories”.
Mewes: “The EKS strategy is to consciously analyze and close the gap between the client’s capabilities and the realities of the target group. This gradually improves the mesh between personal capabilities and target group factors. The key then fits the lock”. (Fig. 14)
Fig. 14: Goal of the first seven “strategic phases” of the EKS.
In the first three phases, an individual’s or business’s (company’s) aptitude
profile is determined; the subsequent ones determine where the demand that
can best be tapped with this profile lies. The better the fit, the better
the customer or employer can be satisfied – and the greater the chances
of personal success. After W. Mewes 1972-1976, Lesson 10.
(Eignungsprofil...aptitude profile, Problem bzw. Anforderungsprofil...problem or demand profile)
The final selection from the realistic short-list asks, “What target group offers me the greatest chances of success?” This question is particularly important for businesses that produce too many and too many different products. In one of our examples, Mr. Kürner was forced to decide what types of laundry he would leave to his competition and what type he would specialize in: the correct strategy is always to opt for the most appealing choice, one that also offers the greatest prospects for the future. This means being on the lookout for ever better solutions to the customers’ problems.
Once the rough selection has yielded the most promising opportunities, Mewes advises his clients not to waste too much time planning and pondering, but to enter the fray with a modest real-life venture. In the case of a client who was a bank employee, this involved focusing on the problem of bank advertising and collecting the necessary information and expertise. An antique dealer successively displayed uniforms, masks, porcelain, pictures, aviation mementos and similar “special offers” in his window. At the same time he tested the mail-order market for such narrowly defined target groups with newspaper ads and mailings. A young painter placed a series of equally sized ads aimed at various target groups and then selected the group that showed the greatest response. He determined that expensive and exclusive, high-end painting jobs were the most promising in his field.
Logically, these “small, low-risk steps” are the prelude for taking the next big step – committing yourself to a particular lock. The EKS recommendation at this stage is to specialize in a “segment of the target group” where you feel particularly secure. The final question is: “How big a piece of cake do I think I can handle?” The most effective approach is not to tackle some part of the problem that needs to be solved, but rather to tackle some part of the target group, a subgroup to whom the EKS candidate can then provide more individualized service.
Altogether, the seven phases of this strategic program reveal the large gap between the traditional method of choosing the right career and today’s ever more stringent requirements. Our upbringing, school systems, training programs, and professional consultancies are simply inadequate to meet these requirements. That approach continues to churn out carpenters, book-keepers, engineers, medical doctors, officers, or any number of other, historically developed, standard professions. In fairness, it does allow a variety of specializations, for example electrical engineers, ear, nose and throat doctors, or patent attorneys. Generally, relatively broad curricula are offered, but the ever increasing number of “non-traditional” professions fail to be adequately addressed. This reflects the standard, familiar approach: produce a range of goods according to the best knowledge of market demand and then sell it to the public using every trick in the trade. If, however, the lock determines the shape of the key, then Mewes’ strategy is much more efficient business-wise. In this case, demand not only controls the selection of goods being sold, but also exerts control over the development of those very goods.
Today, computers play a crucial role in the effort to
optimally align the lock-and-key mechanism, both for employees and for
businesses. Although the much vaunted horror vision of a computer world
in the sense of Orwell’s machine dictatorship remains an issue, reality
teaches us otherwise. Booking a flight is a classic example for the positive
avenues that computers have opened up: no other approach would allow this
process to be completed with comparable efficiency. The responsibility
for helping each and everyone find the career most suited to their aptitudes,
and determining where individuals can maximize their benefit, is probably
the most important social function that the state can perform. This goes
far beyond merely “creating jobs” to fully utilizing the many opportunities
that human progress – and its new array of problems and desires – has created.
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