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November 2010
What in the World Is Going On?
By Sam Frowine

What in the World Can I Do Differently?

     Over the past two years, I’ve focused on adaptive strategies to help enterprises—mine as well as others’—get healthy or remain healthy despite the economic slump. Most of the businesses I know have been concerned with the pressing issues of meeting payroll, retaining market share, holding talent and keeping the doors open to fight another day.


     This spring, I set out on a quest to gain perspective on this ubiquitous question, “What in the world is going on?”

     In May, I travelled to Book Expo in New York City, the world’s largest conference for the publishing industry, where I met and exchanged ideas with other authors. In June, I went to Boston for the Futures Conference to experience some of the best minds in the world, who were also searching for fresh answers to perplexing global challenges. While in that historic city, I also followed the trail of our country’s founders as part of studying their search for answers at a defining time in our history.

     In September, I spent time studying the economy in China, where I had unprecedented access to entrepreneurs, government officials, the working class citizens they call “commoners” and members of our own U.S. Consulate. Most recently, I attended the World Business Forum 2010 in New York City, the leading international symposium for executives.

     Having processed all that I’ve experienced, I have a modest proposal: We must take some of the energy we’ve poured into fulfilling our entrepreneurial individualism and funnel it into discovering and releasing our collective genius.

     Yes, private enterprise is the backbone of the U.S. economy. Private enterprise offers hope for job creation. It births innovation. It’s the source of economic freedom. It’s where leaders are grown and launched. Our model of private enterprise is so powerful the Chinese are emulating it right now.

     But overextending the individualism of private enterprise has become a liability to tapping our creative power as a society. We must balance the individualism inherent in entrepreneurship with the synergy to be found in releasing our collective genius.

     We must tap the collective genius in our enterprises. We must prepare to do so by tapping the collective genius found in groups of other owners and thought leaders. It’s time to stop asking, “What in the world is going on?”

    We must start asking, “What in the world can I do differently?” “How in the world can I look at this problem from a different perspective?” “Who in the world should I invite to think with me about this?”

     The secret is in the collective genius of our enterprises and organizations. It’s time to stop sitting on it.


Here’s some of the best thinking I heard during my travels. These aren’t direct quotes; they’re big concepts boiled down into brief comments.


Stop making decisions out of fear. We are not going down!

~Jack Welch, corporate leader and writer


An abundance of creative ideas is amassing right now. Explore the world with your eyes and your mind open.

~James Cameron, Academy Award-winning creator of the film Avatar


You must have the courage to cut off the cancerous limb if you expect to restore life in the rest of the body. Prune the vine!

~Good to Great author Jim Collins


Solutions to insurmountable problems come when we clear away our old ways of thinking and make way for unexpected insights.

~Rebecca Costas, author of The Watchman’s Rattle


Encourage creative leadership, reinvent relationships with customers and develop operational dexterity.

~IBM conference for international consultants


Treat your business like a laboratory in search of a new business model. Incent valuable behavior. Invent new ways of behaving.

~Steve Levitt, author of Freakonomics


Everything you are doing is on the way to becoming commoditized. Seek new markets before you need to.

~Renee Mauborgne, co-author of Blue Ocean Strategy


The overriding challenge of our time is the sustainability of our planet. It will be the source of millions of jobs as it is affecting millions of lives all over the globe. Either embrace sustainability as a business issue or accept the consequences for missing your cues.

 ~Al Gore, former Vice President


See where your customer is going before they do.

~Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP


Content provided by Samuel E. Frowine III, founder, owner and president of The Performance Group, Ltd., a business consulting firm aligning enterprises with the ambition of owners. For more on Sam’s experiences in China, check out his blog at; contact him at 704-597-5156 or visit


Founder, owner and President of The Performance Group, Ltd.
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