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What Alan Turing and his enigma-cracking Turing Machine has to teach us about business

In 1939, Alan Turing joined the British Government Code and Cypher School and set out to crack the indecipherable Enigma code system used by the Nazis. I believe he has much to teach us about business.

In 1939, Alan Turing joined the British Government Code and Cipher School to assist in the government’s attempt to crack the supposedly indecipherable enigma code system. Alan Turing was among a handful of mathematicians that believed the challenge could be beaten not by using human brainpower but by a formula, or more specifically an algorithm based on Alonzo Church‘s earlier work in 1936 on what he called Lambda Calculus.

The Turing Machine which he would eventually build was essentially his attempt to render a Lambda function which could calculate and decipher the enigma code system into physical form.

Besides being an absolute mad lad and saving literally millions of lives in the process, I think we all could take a note from him on taking a more systematic approach to business.

Why a systematic approach was the only viable option

The enigma code system was remarkably complex (at least to the eyes of a layman like myself). There’s a reason why an army of cryptologists, translators, and mathematicians couldn’t beat it for years.

What made it so difficult to crack was how many times a letter was “scrambled” by the enigma machine AND how often the cipher settings were changed across the entirety of Nazi Germany.

If you watch this video (which starts at 6:15), you’ll see that each enigma machine has 3 rotors which scrambled an inputted letter 7 times over and then could be scrambled even more times using what’s called a plugboard.

Before Turing invented his machine, cryptologists might have managed to figure out that a “G” in a codified transmission actually was a “B” in plaintext German during a single 24-hour period. The problem that remained was two-fold, it meant they still had 25 more letters to decipher and there was still only 24 hours before the entire cipher system was changed.

It was for this reason, a systematic approach far beyond the capabilities of any human or even a large group of humans was the only viable option for cracking enigma.

How this translates to business

Finding success in business as a small business owner has historically been a matter of trial and error. Start a business, fail, start another one. Hopefully, you get it right before you run out of time or capital. We don’t live forever after all.

Granted, here in 2022, we live in the age of big data where large corporations, VC funds and the ilk have access to hordes of data which allow them to see macro-economic trends and opportunities which the rest of us peasants simply don’t. There are always going to be external variables at play which can ruin even the best laid business strategies but for these massive players, the game is less about luck and more about calculating which opportunities present the highest upside and the least risk.

While these exceptionally well-funded organizations have resources this humble small business entrepreneur could only dreams of, I’ve been pondering how I might employ a similar approach to them and Turing.

We live in a modern era where there are hundreds of thousands of successful companies, and success always leaves clues. And so my theory is that if we take those clues of success and build a formula, an algorithm, which allows myself and my clients to systematically replicate the success that previous companies have already enjoyed. This could present a far more predictable, accelerated path to success. After all, I want to be successful while I’m still young enough to enjoy it.

Two hypotheses to improve your odds of achieving B2B Sales & Marketing Success

That it is a much more reliable and predictable path towards success, which will reduce the amount of capital required the amount of manpower required in time that needs to be invested. As a result of these systems, thinking I have created two formulas, which I believe encapsulate my entire business model; you could think of them as hypotheses.

The first of these two formulas is more about clearly understanding your own business, your clients, business competitors, and the relationship you have with all between all three of you. That funny Maxim, I think applies perfectly, and that knowledge is power. And of course, we want as much power as we can have. And the hypothesis the first one is an equation that goes something like this.

My business delivers X service to y businesses to solve Z problem and deliver results at a B cost using our C process and D talents and experience. This equation quite literally encapsulates entire businesses, sales, and marketing pitch in each of these variables is not binary; it’s not a yes or no on-off variable.

The more relevance and quantifiable and measurable, and specific each one of these variables can be. I believe the more effective your sales and marketing is going to be. Now that first equation is really about the preparation, preparing for combat for preparing to go out into the business marketplace so that you can understand yourself, your clients, your competition, and that you can create a message which will be better than anyone else out there.

Because essentially, we are taking this formula in trying to convert it into powerful psychology, which will allow us to manipulate and convince potential prospects in the hopes of that they will agree to doing business with us. Of course, psychology is an infinitely complex science. And I don’t pretend to claim that this formula encapsulates everything, but it does aim to identify these critical components in your sales and marketing strategy and preparation.

The seconds equation aims not to identify and understand the position of your company, your clients, and your competitors, but more so about the act of reaching out to your customers using an outbound strategy or perhaps inbound as well. There are many variables which will determine the success of your messaging. Of course, that might mean finding the right companies in the right people and so on.

And so in my attempts to understand how to quantify and measure and determine what variables will influence the success of your marketing campaigns, I’ve created this second equation, which goes along the lines of if you approach the right people at the right time, with see the right messaging, and D can demonstrate the value of your offer with IE proof and process that x you’re going to win deals.

But once again, this formula can present these variables is it binary on-off yes No. value. However, they are infinitely variable between literally perfect and exactly imperfect. I think you’ll find it easy to see that the more precisely you identify each of these variables and with greater volume and efficiency, the more successful your marketing will be

Closing Thoughts

Perhaps it is folly to try to systematically encapsulate an entire category of professions and business functions into two hypotheses. But science, of course, is simply just the process of the human endeavor to understand the world around us, including between humans themselves. If the old maxim, “knowledge is power” holds true to any level, then perhaps these two hypotheses might prove useful to you to some degree.

By identifying these variables, it feels like an implementation of that famous Peter Drucker quote, “what gets managed, gets improved.” It would seem to put us all in a far better position to improve our likelihood of success and I hope you find yours.

Thank you for reading.

Until next time, be good to each other

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In 1939, Alan Turing joined the British Government Code and Cypher School and set out to crack the indecipherable Enigma code system used by the Nazis. I believe he has much to teach us about business.

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