One Thing: Does Zingerman’s prove the exception to this rule?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series One Thing

Ann Arbor ZingermansWhat’s the secret—the “one thing”—that makes life successful?

In various forms, that’s the question Ari Weinzweig, CEO and Co-Founder of Zingerman’s Community Businesses, gets asked over and over again. Reporters on deadline ask Ari for the one thing that makes Zingerman’s so successful. Entrepreneurs about to launch businesses ask him to identify the one thing. Competitors search desperately for the one thing.

Do you know the Zingerman’s answer to—one thing?

Ari spoke this Monday at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, sponsored by the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship.  The title of his talk was “Fixing the Energy Crisis in the American Workplace: Living the Twelve Natural Laws of Business.” He revealed the one thing, which, as you might guess from his title, was this:  There is no one thing. There’s no single ingredient that creates success. Rather, it’s a combination of multiple ingredients that somehow work together to create a successful business.

He drew an analogy between organic farming versus monocropping. Organic farming includes, among other things, crop rotation, natural pesticides, no additives, no genetically modified organisms, natural fertilizers, and adaption to local conditions. In other words, it’s the way farming has been done for eons.

Monocropping focuses on one thing—one crop year after year, usually corn, wheat, or soybeans. Producing high yields requires lots of artificial fertilizers and specialized equipment. Ironically, producing one thing requires many things.

So, is the idea of one thing misguided? A reader of sent us this observation: “Nice to think of 1 thing, but life is messy for most people.”

Is one thing the wrong goal?

Is life too messy to reduce it to one thing?

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