It’s pretty unlikely that Peter Palchinsky knew much about social business. He was a Russian engineer who achieved fame in tsarist, and later Bolshevik Russia. He was a fervent critic of many of the grand Stalinist engineering schemes, such as the Dnieper Dam and Magnitogorsk steel city and largely came to western attention via an excellent book by Lorna Graham called The Ghost of the Executed Engineer.
He was largely opposed to the central planning that was common in Russia at the time, instead advocating a more evolutionary approach to projects. Central to this philosophy were his three rules that were designed to deal with the complexity of the world we inhabit, and overcome the hubris within man that often overlooks this complexity.
The Palchinsky Principles
Principle 1 – Seek out new ideas and try new things
Principle 2 – When trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable
Principle 3 – Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along
You can see that nature plays a big part in his philosophy, with #1 outlining the variation that is common in evolution, with #3 performing the evolutionary task of ‘selection’.
So how does this apply to social business? Well too often, social business projects reflect the large, centrally planned projects that were so common in Soviet Russia. They’re designed centrally and rolled out en masse, often assuming what consumers, employees and other stakeholders want and need, and this approach is a major contributory factor behind the incredibly high failure rate of social business projects. This failure then tends to sink the entire notion of social business as a way of doing business.
If you’re here, reading this blog, I’ll assume you don’t want that. So next time you think about trying out a social approach to business, try and heed Peter Palchinsky’s three simple principles.