The endeavor cycle

The endeavor cycle

To build an endeavor that contributes to solving a social challenge at scale, many elements need to come together. It is a challenging and creative process that benefits with a strategic design that maps out what is ahead and what is needed. It does so while focusing on the present requirements of any disruptive endeavor looking to grow.



The proposed framework follows the sequence beginning with delighting customers, envisioning how to make it a platform that scales, empowering your network and finally maintaining a dynamic focus toward impact.

Delighting customers

The delighting customers quadrant is where we find all creative leaders are of the same seed: the seed of action. The space where an explorative mindset grasps the difference of what is asked of them, and how to make that world a better place. This needs to produce insights towards solutions that match the values, ethics, and mission toward a balanced and prosperous future for everyone.

It starts off the cycle of the framework because innovative solutions always need to emerge from a market need. So, understanding the larger social challenge, the underlying dynamics, and root causes and as a result, grasping the essential market need is where it all starts. Catering to this essential market need means providing a product, service or solution that make the intended beneficiaries very, very happy; i.e., to be delighted users. Think of a hospital that provides access to healthcare that otherwise does not exist. Think of a company that brings world-class education to refugee camps with computer tablets. Think of a waste company that repurposes waste intended for landfills and oceans.  All live by the virtue of delighting their beneficiaries and users. Why pursue it otherwise; why bother?

You delight customers by identifying the deeply emotional connection – it goes beyond functionality but moves them deeply. You identify it and then match that with something that delivers through a service and product that delights. You’ve correctly anticipated an unarticulated need, and build something that delivers on this. Your users get a feeling that your offering has understood them on a deeper level to their positive surprise.

Your first customers are so important because they become your core base: ‘The first audience you have is the audience you always have. You only get famous once.’  – Prince. Solving a social challenge at scale often means creating a movement, a wave of contributors with many involved. Such movements start with the first adopters often innovation and technology-enthusiasts, making them leaders in their outlook. The larger group comes in the second phase, once the doors have been widened by the pioneers – you and your first delighted users.

endeavor cycle
You delight customers by identifying the deeply emotional connection – going beyond functionality and moving them deeply. #leadership #endeavor #entrepreneur #delightingusers Click To Tweet

Architecting a scalable platform

Once the enterprise delights its first customers, it will attract further demand. To cater to this requires architecting a scalable platform: a delivery system that can cater to (much) more volume. With more volume, the delivery system becomes more complicated, with more people involved and more dependency on standardization and automation. This requires the foresight on an architect: to anticipate the requirements of delivery and translate this into a design that can deal with this scale.

Whereas the first stage had the emotional drive of the entrepreneur, this stage is more rational: it is about putting structure to the intuition and a sense of reality to the dream. The explorative stage of discovering what would delight customers is followed by a visioning stage to define how to pull this off at scale.

There is a necessary ‘come-together’ of three elements in creating a scalable platform. You need to envision/architect something that is:

  1. Big and beautiful (large scale social impact)
  2. Realistically doable (pragmatic, low-cost, modular, repeatable)
  3. New to world (innovative, new business model)

Bringing these three together is the creative challenge. Many scalable platforms are of a digital nature because it allows to reach many at low cost and leverages the new functionality digital products and services can offer. That said, it doesn’t mean scalable platforms must always be digital.

endeavor cycle
Architecting a scalable platform is about putting structure to the intuition and a sense of reality to the dream. #scaling #scalable #entrepreneur #endeavor #business Click To Tweet

Empowered networks

The third phase looks at empowering your networks, and how to deal with the changes as an individual effort becomes group force. The saying goes that success has many elders. In popular culture, it looks like the shift from an individual artist to a genre: you can go from Chuck Berry to rock ‘n roll. This is the broadening of an individual pursuit to a collective movement. As such, this phase follows naturally from the first two phases which are an individual or small team effort and demonstrates that the effort is gaining traction.

It’s important in this third phase to map out how the system works, based on how many stakeholders and parties are involved and impacted by the endeavor. Are you able to create sufficient common interests for a group motion forward? Ideally, this momentum creates its own acceleration: bigger numbers create bigger waves.

The change from individual effort toward group force in many cases means that the group takes its own momentum and the instigators become part of the movement instead of leading it. It could be that there is still a role of aggregator or manager of stakeholder interests, but this is in many cases not a requirement for success.

endeavor cycle
To empower your networks, you need to deal with the changes as an individual effort becomes group force. #empower #network #entrepreneur #business Click To Tweet

Dynamic focus

Finally, once you’ve created a movement, it starts moving. The journey will encounter unexpected events to which you, as a creative leader, need to respond. It might cross borders, for which your leadership requires a new kind of attention. We make the analogy of riding waves, which, any surfer will tell you, requires the ability to maintain morale and energy. How do you take advantage of sudden opportunities as these arise? Your role is to protect against sudden trouble by creating a healthy assortment of projects in the air, which require the ultimate of strategy under uncertainty, and of adaptive, courageous leadership.

At some stage, the strategy might be to “pivot”.  The pivot is that we such drastic changes in certain circumstances that we have to revisit our entire purpose, existence, product, and service. This means that we return to phase one and find what it takes to delight our users anew.

It may seem counterintuitive to place this at the final stage but as any entrepreneur will tell you, lasting purpose often reveals itself only once the users, vision, and movement are in place and the journey is on.

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These are the four elements of a successful endeavor that contributes to solving a social challenge at scale. These elements need to all be in place and follow each other naturally in a perpetual virtuous cycle. It is an endeavor of many, not one individual creative leader, carrying each of the fundamentals on their own shoulders. You can become truly distinctive at one stage of the cycle, so long as the organization or movement is good at all.

To build a strong endeavor that solves a social challenge at scale, join the THNK Executive Leadership Program.