Progress as a verb (or state transition)

Progress as a verb (or a state transition) is the workhorse of the progress economy. Where we define progress as:

progress: moving, over time, to a more desired state

And that more desired progress state is the named state of progress sought we explore in progress as a noun. Although, for practical reasons, we frequently address specific aspects of progress sought at a time.

We often find progress seekers willing to compromise their progress sought to the progress offered by a progress proposition. Perhaps there is no other way to reach progress sought. Or progress offered has lower progress hurdles associated with it.

Either way, we’ll see that seekers make progress attempts towards their initial judgement of progress potential (which will be sufficiently near progress offered/sought for the seeker to feel an attempt will be worth it)

progress attempt: an attempt by a progress seeker to progress towards their initial judgement of progress potential.

Where progressing means executing a series of progress making activities. Which are usually acts of resource integration between combinations of operant or operand resources. Each activity moving the progress state of progress reached closer to the initial progress potential.

Though the state includes contextual element, we generally do not expect that to change under a progress attempt. If it needs to change, it is better to reframe the progress attempt so that element of context to change becomes a functional or non-functional element. For example a contextual constraint of “I can’t drive” becomes a functional progress of “learn to drive”.

Seekers look to engage progress propositions if they feel progress potential on their own is too low. This is often due to a lack of resource (skills, knowledge, time etc). And propositions comprise i) proposed set of progress making activities and ii) a specific set of supplementary skills and competence encapsulating resources for seeker to integrate with.

When engaging a proposition, the driver of the progress making activities can be either the seeker or the helper. The actor driving the majority of the activities positions then proposition on the progress proposition continuum. Which ranges from enabling propositions (seeker drives all activities) to relieving ones (helper drives all activities).

To round off our exploration, we’ll see that making progress is a continual decision making process. Balancing updated progress reached with remaining progress potential and several hurdles to progress.

Service Engagement Decision
Service Engagement Decision

And we suspect these decision points align with the end of each progress making activity.

Let’s get exploring!

To progress…

Collins define the verb to progress as:

to move over a period of time to a stronger, more advanced, or more desirable state


And this is exactly what progress seekers are attempting with all aspects of their lives. Learning a new language, fixing a car, cooking a romantic meal, analysing data to find insights, and so on. I think that “more desirable state” covers “stronger” and “more advanced”. So, we’ll define progress as a verb in the progress economy as:

progress: moving, over time, to a more desired state

We also have a name for this more desirable state sought by the seeker: progress sought

For now, let’s remember that a progress state consists of three elements: functional, non-functional and contextual. We look at this more in the article progress as a state.

If the seeker is moving, over time, to a more desirable state, where are they moving from? Well, we defined that in progress as a noun as the progress origin. So now we can also think of progress as a state transition. From the progress origin state to the progress sought state.

But, we’re better off thinking in terms of attempts to progress rather than assuming progress is made.


Progress attempt

Whilst ideally a seeker will progress to their more desired state of progress sought; they face challenges before starting and along the way. And along the way they are phenomenologically judging the state of progress reached and what they feel the progress potential state is. Which implies they may stop any time they feel like it.

So, let’s say we deal with progress attempts.

progress attempt: an attempt by a progress seeker to progress towards their initial judgement of progress potential.

Which gives us an insight into the first decision point – to start an attempt or not.

To start or not

is progress potential sufficient

To continue or not

Firstly, it might not be possible, today, to reach that progress sought. I for example would love to fly in space. But the potential for that is quite low. There are several hurdles in my way. I totally lack the resources to do so. I have neither the

…through a process consisting of a series of activities…

Progress is a process, made up of a series of activities.

A move over time implies that progress is a process. And processes are made up of a series of activities. Which is exactly how we continue our definition. And, because we see progress as a proactive exercise, then the words “activities” and “series of activities” feel appropriate.

Additionally, this phrasing helps us discover that a progress seeker performs a continuous decision process when attempting to make progress. First deciding to start an attempt. Then repeatedly selecting to keep moving forward at different decision points. These decision points, I believe, occur after activities complete.

At each decision point the seeker judges progress potential and progress achieved. These lead to our understanding of value. The seeker also judges how high the lack of resource progress hurdle is (see “the challenge of a lone progress seeker” in this article)). If either of the first two are two low or the later too high then progress may stop..

But, what do these activities involve?

…where activities normally involve the application of resources

A seeker progresses through integrating and applying resources. Where resources are:

resources – the tangible and intangible entities available to an actor [see operant resource and operand resource]

Hunt, S. (1997) “Competing Through Relationships: Grounding Relationship Marketing in Resource-Advantage Theory”, Joumal of Marketing Managemet, 13. 431—445

And there are two types of resource: operant and operand. Let’s look at each.

Typically we observe progress seekers applying their skills, knowledge and time to attempt to progress. These are all examples of what we call operant resources. And we can more generically define them as:

operant resource: a resource that needs to act on other resources for progress to be made

Alves, Ferriera and Fernandes (2016) give us a wider list to consider. “Operant resources held by each individual may be:

  • physical – include sensory-motor endowment, energy, emotions and strength.
  • social – made up of both personal and cultural relationships
  • cultural – include specialised knowledge and skills, life expectancy and historic imagination”

Additionally, we may need to bring operand resources to an activity. We define these as:

operand resource – a resource that needs to be acted upon for progress to be made

And, in the progress economy, these are items that freeze skills and knowledge so that they can be transported elsewhere and used (unfrozen) later. A car, for example freezes skills and knowledge of how to transport a small number of people. Which is unfrozen every time we turn the ignition key.

To tie off this sub section, we should note that a progress seeker’s lack of resource is a progress hurdle and an opportunity. We’ll explore this more in the section on “the challenge of a lone progress seeker”.

…where activities are determined and scheduled

Before attempting to progress, it is beneficial to understand the required activities and the order in which they must be completed.

Failure to do so will probably lead to frustration for the progress seeker. However, due to the phenomenological nature of progress, there may be seekers who seek the challenge of figuring things out as they go.

But let’s note that this doesn’t mean that outcomes are pre-determined. Just the steps to reach outcomes. Additionally, an ability to replan is required to address the evolving nature of progress sought.

And it turns out that planning, and ability to replan, are operant resources. Which has implications relating to the lack of resource progress hurdle mentioned above, and discussed in the section on “the challenge of a lone progress seeker

Needing a progress owner

The organisation of the enterprise has evolved over the years. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see business units transformed to have product owners, customer champions, chief experience officers etc. Together with Agile, Lean, and Safe implementations (all of which can be viewed as progress propositions).

Whilst some of this may be trend-following, or attempts by corporates to emulate stellar growth found (in the relatively few successful) start-ups, there is certainly a need to (re-) think how enterprises of the future are organised for growth.

And the progress economy indicates that enterprises be structured around the progress offered.

After all, our re-phrase of Drucker’s “purpose of a firm” observation above tells us the purpose of the helper is to get equitable exchange with seekers. And we’ve just walked through how progress offered relates to progress sought. The definition finishes off with the three functions a helper therefore has. Namely:

  • discovery of progress sought
  • innovation of progress offered
  • successful execution of propositions

And to do that, we need a progress owner. Someone accountable for:

  • understanding progress sought
  • ensuring progress offered in progress proposal is delivered
  • helping seekers make progress better
  • helping progress seeker make better progress
  • lowering one or more of the six progress hurdles

The first point addresses marketing as well as learnings from each proposal execution. The second that poor execution leads to value co-destruction, abandoned progress attempts and missed learnings. Although there are alternative learnings on why there was value co-destruction.

And if those last three sound familiar, they are the basis of the progress economy view of innovation. The rest of the organisation should be structured the best way to support the progress owner.

Organising the helper enterprise

Is there more to organising the helper enterprise we can pull out of the progress economy thinking? That’s an ongoing discussion…

Successful start-ups are lazer focussed on this. Corporates tend to focus more on stability and efficiencies. Resulting in them tacking innovation on as a side job, detached from the true focus of their business goals and actions (stability and profit). Therefore, struggling to address changes in progress sought and offered. Which is counter to the observations above.

Wrapping up

Add to the discussion…

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