Business at the Speed of Revolution

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Funny thing about revolutions…


They’re designed to incite mass numbers of people to rise up and create change. Political change. Societal change. But, what if they could also fuel mass action in a radically different context? Watching the cascade of revolutions that swept the world beginning in 2010, I began to wonder:

What if you applied the key elements of political revolutions to the world of business-growth and brand building? Could it generate the same mass evangelism, fierce support and hyper-growth?

Answering the question became a bit of an obsession. I spent years studying everything from revolution theory to startup methodology, brand-building to behavioral design, cult-building to “church planting” and story architecture to social dynamics. Over time, the answer emerged.

Yes, you can do it. But, “how” you do it is critical.

Nail the process, the messaging and execution and you get to tap astonishing grassroots power to launch, fund or grow your product or venture at an pace that is unmatchable in traditional business. Do it wrong, though, and you get labeled not just a failure, but an opportunist and potentially even a predator.

Question is, how do you do it right?

Answering this question been my quest. One that’s led to the development of a comprehensive action framework called the The Art of Revolution™ Framework.

I’ve shared it now as a keynote from the stage, in conference with founders and CEOs and in private webinars packed with thousands of world-shakers from all over the world.

And, now, I’m sharing the basic elements with you. Right here.

Below is an overview of all 18-elements.

Enjoy learning. And, most important, use it to build engines of good. To bring people together to make great things happen. Here you go…

The 18-Element Art of Revolution™ Framework.


1. I.D. your Revolutionary Avatar. 

Step one is to identify who you want to serve and who you’ll need to rally to launch, fund, evangelize and grow your business or brand. I call this your “Revolutionary Avatar (RA).” This is a bit different than traditional business, which focuses on who you want to “buy your stuff.” In consumer revolutions, they may be the same person, but never assume that.

2. Discover the Shared Pain. 

Revolutions, whether political or consumer, are fueled by a foundation of pervasive discontent that rises to the level of ever-present, widespread pain. Shared pain, it turns out, unites people. Witness one of the driving forces behind social sharing. Unique pain, however, doesn’t. You need to identify the problem that people co-experience and are open to communing around.

3. Call out the Dictator. 

Identify the source of the shared pain. Big newsflash, in the context of business and brand revolutions, it’s often not a person, but rather some blend of institution, paradigm, entity or quality. Even if you never name it, you still have to know it.

4. Stand up and Lead. 

Even in the day of social media, where things seemingly catch fire on their own, you still need someone who is defining, mapping, coordinating, strategizing and leading. And, they must embody the qualities of a leader, preferably from within the demo of the Revolutionary Avatar (though that can we worked around…sometimes).

5. Create your Inciting Incident. 

You’ve got to create or piggyback on a moment that interrupts your RA’s normal patterns and attention and give them a jolt of inspiration and a reason to take action in support of what you’re looking to do.

6. Craft your Rally Cry. 

Here’s where we start to move from the foundation elements and build the conversation around them, starting with identifying and messaging “what we’re moving away from.” This is important, but it’s also critical that you do not stop here (which is exactly what most people do). Don’t just say “this is what we don’t want.” Build on it with the following elements.

7. Share your Unifying Beliefs. 

Spend some time getting very clear about what you believe about what the problem is, what a better reality could be and how you and those you seek to rally can get there. Then share these beliefs.

8. Describe your Revolutionary Solution. 

Now that you’ve said what you’re moving away from and what you believe, now it’s time to tell people either how you’ve solved their problem or how you would love their help making a better future possible, without the pain and problem. This, too, is where you integrate your business, brand or venture.

9. Share your Resonant Story. 

Beyond the rally cry, beliefs and movement toward a solution, you need to capture not just the attention, but the hearts of those you seek to rally and serve. Nothing does that better than a story well-told. This is where your story meets their story, and you handoff the “hero baton” to them.

10. Craft your Manifesto. 

Now, it’s time to bring the first 9 elements together into a single, full-integrated messaging device that fires up your RA, inspires engagement, participation and calls them to action. This can be done in many formats, from video to print to events. A well-crafted manifesto can launch stunning movements. A poorly formed one ends up doing nothing, and may even do harm.

11. Map the Revolutionary Path. 

When you call people to action, to help you build a revolutionary business or brand, you have to tell them what to do. You need to provide a path. And critical to that is deciding whether your revolution will be short-term (transactional) or sustained. You’ll need to give precise direction and create opportunities for engagement and action at each step.

12. Bond the Tribe. 

The longer-term, the more sustained you want people to be, the more a strong sense of movement-bonded, intentional community becomes important. Two hugely effective mechanisms for this are symbology and “insider” language. Think about how to create these.

13. Recruit your Torchbearers. 

Beyond your RA (who you obviously will need to serve and rally), you need to assemble your early team, the people who will align with you on multiple levels, who will help you make something amazing happen. Start to identify those people and use your rally cry, unifying beliefs and vision for a solution (or existing solution) as a litmus test for who to bring in and who to keep out.

14. Identify Key Resources & Allies. 

Moving beyond your inner circle and RAs, it’s also important to think through all key resources you’ll need to execute on your plan. If you are implementing this within an existing venture, you may be able to draw upon existing internal resources. If not, you’ll need to identify them, then begin to line them up.

15. Be Everywhere At Once. 

Once you have the messaging, resources and people in place, it’s time to launch. Usually the “opening shot” is your inciting incident. That can even come in the form of the publication of a manifesto, a big public talk or rally and anything else. To the extent possible, find out where your RA already looks for information and inspiration and get your message out in those places. Go to them, don’t force them to come to you. And be sure to also designate one major location as your “core” messaging hub. This is often your website, but with tech and mobile changing things so quickly, it doesn’t have to be.

16. Dashboard your Milestones. 

Once you start to put your ideas into the world, it’s critical to track and dashboard what is working and what is not. Especially if you have limited resources, because you’ll want to quickly prune the duds and lean into the strategies, messages and channels that are catching fire and allocate more energy to them.

17. Design for Contagion. 

As you continue to refine all elements, foundation, strategic, people, messaging and actions, it can be helpful to build as much opportunity for “contagion” or viral sharing/evangelism as possible. Researcher Jonah Berger, has identified 6 elements that drive contagion: social currency (getting credit for sharing something cool), emotion, triggers (for action), observability (symbology is a great example), stories, and genuine value.

18. Tip & Ripple. 

This is the ultimate “structural goal of the business or brand revolution. It’s the moment the message, emotion, actions start to take on their own energy. Instead of you having to force attention, expanding waves of become start to inspire each other, carrying the ripple out on their own and fueling word-of-mouth evangelism, growth and impact. This is also the moment you need to trust that you did a good enough job defining the core ideals to trust that they’ll continue on, even as people begin to run with what you’ve created.

Where does all of this leave us?

As you can probably tell, each element could be the subject of much deeper inquiry. In fact, if you’d like to explore them more, and see a whole bunch of cool case studies and examples to better get whether the model might be right for you or your endeavor, you can check out the free 4-part video series I put together here.

Either way, just think about the potential you hold in your hands. To not just build a “business as usual,” but rather a “business as extraordinary engine of inspiration, elevation, belonging and belief.” Whether you get there via the Art of Revolution Framework or some other approach, rise to the challenge of not just selling a product and generating revenue, but leaving others lifted.

Wishing you a powerful journey to come!

With gratitude,


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