Uncommon Solutions

Two powerful words voiced by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and heard most mornings on NPR segments they support. Living in Central PA as an entrepreneur, but working outside those boundaries, I feel the powerful tug of war between common and uncommon.

The Kauffman Foundation: Uncommon

Products & Services: Being an entrepreneur in small town USA can mean hanging a shingle promoting your efforts to bring the common to the community. We all know the common things. They are the services and products that a large population of humans seek or need frequently. The uncommon can feel risky, NEW and strange. Should I open that Art & Team Bar in a culture of drive-through coffee drinkers? Be too uncommon and the entrepreneur can feel the sting of common mindsets. See, that’s the point about being uncommon. It makes us, the consumers, reevaluate our needs and think deeper about what can benefit us. Is the same old, same old good? Bad? Just meh? When entrepreneurs kick us out of our comfort zones and into a new mindset….we all win. The uncommon wins!

Approaches & Tactics: Common extends into organizational structures and cultures as well. That old, dusty Vision Statement hanging on the wall is common. It’s ignored, but common. Having our Monday morning meetings, common. Ineffective, but common. Teams of people attempting to work together with little to no effort put into understanding ourselves, each other or how our unique blend of attitudes and behaviors impact organizational performance. That’s common. Not great, common. Bad actually. But common. Just like the convenience and comfort of hitting that drive through for a cup-o-joe, we get caught in a drive through mindset of work culture. “It’s not healthy, but it’s quick and we KNOW how to do it.” Pretty soon, we’re ordering an extra this or that in cultural terms. One day, we add a side of team in-fighting, or how about a crushed spirit or two? No harm no fowl. We were in line and while we’re here, why not. The common. We all know what the common drive through routine results in. Unhealthiness. So yes, the common Approaches & Tactics for organizations result in the same.

Developing an organizational mindset equipped for our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world can become common, but for now, it is uncommon…and lovely…….and needed.

If you didn’t click through to the article on the Kauffman website listed above, here is a powerful quote:

“You should not choose to be a common company. It’s your right to be uncommon if you can. You seek opportunity to compete. You desire to take the calculated risk, to dream, to build, yes, even to fail, and to succeed.”

— Ewing Marion Kauffman

This is my challenge to every organization, be uncommon. Craft a Vision that is INSPIRING. Build a Mission that is worth doing repeatedly by the HUMANS who have joined you. Get to know your fellow teammates beyond ritualistic hellos and goodbyes and thank yous and awkward high fives. Be committed to being uncommon for those you serve because they NEED you to be uncommon, but may have no idea what that looks like. That’s your job. That’s OUR job.

Want to be uncommon, and awesome. Connect with me to bring MYNDDSET services to your organization. Together, we’ll MAP, ADVANCE and TRANSFORM your culture. We’ll be UNCOMMON together.

Your Manifesto is Your Compass

Manifest Your Manifesto

By Mark T Burke

Your Manifesto is Your Compass
Your Manifesto is Your Compass

Highly successful people have a clear compass that guides them forward.  That compass is not only clear to them, but clear to others.  It is visible, tangible, in sight at all times. Their beliefs and what they do each day, each minute, is manifest in a way that showcases the path you’ll take when working with them.  They decisively guide themselves and those they work with using that compass on personal and organizational journeys.  The compass eliminates distracting side trips yet allows for exploration and learning.  That compass is their Manifesto.

Developing a written, personal manifesto is a fantastic way to sort through your personal beliefs and make choices about what really means the most to you in your work and personal life.  A manifesto has a few key components.

  • Beliefs
  • Commitments
  • Principles

An example of one of my beliefs is:

“Build beautiful things.” 

I confess, this belief statement solidified for me after spending time reading and listening to Mr. Todd Henry, author of the Accidental Creative.  By the way, he has a great post on the value of building a manifesto.  And, it’s okay to borrow from others. In fact, we should.

Years before finding Todd Henry, I committed to building every product I could in a beautiful way.  Now, before you start thinking that is some lofty belief there Mark.  Well, look beyond the simple definition of “beautiful.”

“Build beautiful things” is my commitment to building products that are complete, finished.  Whether I am building a training, or a PowerPoint, or a spreadsheet for a client, my commitment to that work is to build it COMPLETELY.

“Build beautiful things” is my commitment to building products that meet a need.  That means I need to clearly understand the need and the expected end result.  If I’m working for a client, I want to know that what I produce will help them, serve a purpose and benefit their organization.  If what I build becomes a file in storage or a product on a shelf, we have more work to do.

“Build beautiful things” is my commitment to building things with design and human interaction in mind.  Functionality is an aspect of beauty that pushes me to create items that people like to interact with.

As you can see, a belief means a lot. The commitments and the principles develop naturally from the belief statements as you further share each belief.  Let’s deconstruct one of my statements above.

“Build beautiful things” (Belief) is my commitment to building products that meet a need. (Commitment)


  • That means I need to clearly understand the need and the expected end result.
  • If I’m working for a client, I want to know that what I produce will help them, serve a purpose and benefit their organization.
  • If what I build becomes a file in storage or a product on a shelf, we have more work to do. 

Manifesto work is ongoing.  A few years ago, I adopted the Serious eLearning Manifesto.  I won’t go into details here.  You can read all about those who authored it and promoted it from their website.    A copy of the complete manifesto hangs on my office wall beside my desk.  Throughout my days, I refer to it often as a way to focus my thoughts, to stay the course.  It is a compass that guides me.

Over the last few months, I’ve had a deeper desire to firm up MYMANIFESTO.  This will be my personal / professional manifesto guiding my work as I continue my journey.  I encourage everyone to think about the value of building your own manifesto, your own compass.  If you do, please share.