You may be familiar with the story of Chicken Little.
Known in various cultures as Henny Penny, Foxy Loxy, or (my personal favorite) Ducky Daddles, the fable recounts the plight of an anxious young chicken whose head is struck by a single acorn, famously leading it to conclude that… “the sky is falling.”
Panic ensues. In many versions, the story ends with poor Chicken Little being eaten by a fox.
It’s easy to judge our young protagonist as reactionary and irrational, but look around at our world today, and suddenly Chicken Little’s conclusion seems more prophetic than panicked.
Our natural environment in disarray. A growing hunger crisis.
A world more online yet more disconnected. Chronic loneliness. A country divided.
Global violence taking the lives of innocent children.
Technology that prays on our vulnerabilities — and prays most on the most vulnerable. Inequity that persists across social factors all over the world.
On the darkest days, the sky’s position propped above our collective heads seems alarmingly uncertain.
The moral of the Chicken Little story is often reduced to a simple warning: “Don’t overreact; things probably aren’t as bad as they seem.”
But the point isn’t whether the sky is actually falling or not.
The point is what we do with our fear, our dread, and our overwhelm. Will the crises that flood our feeds lead us to catastrophize — or will they catalyze us into action? Will we, as leaders, incite a panic or rally progress?
At OX, our mission is to multiply good for humanity.
Since 2010, we’ve focused on helping organizations tackling issues like the ones listed above to make a bigger impact through creative strategy and storytelling. In those 13 years, there have been days for each of us (and maybe for you, too), when the scale of the problems we’re collectively facing feels like more than any of us can effectively meet.
We’re not immune to the overwhelm, but lately, we’ve been talking a lot about that central action word in our mission: multiply. It’s our answer to “what to do when the sky seems to be falling.”
Now, obviously, the alternative to multiplication is addition. Why not just add more good?
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with addition. Every action, every dollar, every selfless choice counts. It’s worth doing. It matters. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, in the right direction… is progress.
But looking around at the world today, it’s clear: impact by addition isn’t going to cut it.
Fear-mongering is irresponsible and short-sighted, but settling for incremental progress denies the realities we face. We need something more… we need to multiply good.
It’s common sense that growth by multiplication happens faster than growth by addition — before they’ve even read Chicken Little, most kids have a grasp on that.
But multiplication differs from addition in some surprising ways...
Since this is a math metaphor, let’s start with the math…
WARNING: The following illustration includes actual math and may not be suitable for all readers. 🧮
Check out the graphic below; at first, the difference is non-existent. 2+2 and 2x2 both lead to 4. In the short term, it can be hard for any of us to tell whether we’re working from the addition mindset or the multiplication mindset.
Quickly, though, the difference is unmissable. In just 10 repetitions of that simple pattern, growth by multiplication leaves addition in its dust. You can think of each line of that equation representing one day or one week, one campaign or one donor event. However you think of it, in the same 10 repetitions, multiplication leads to nearly 100x return compared to addition.
To take that a step further, OX aims to one day be in the rare category of organizations that have existed for over a century, so we asked ourselves, “What happens when we carry this pattern forward not 10 times, but 100 times?”
Growing by addition, that nets out at… 220.
The same repetitions by multiplication?
That gets you (drumroll please):
That’s a number so big I had to look up how to say it. In case you’re like me, that’s 1 nonillion, 267 octillion, 650 septillion, 600 sextillion, 228 quintillion, 229 quadrillion, 401 trillion, 496 billion, 703 million, 205 thousand, 376.
Now imagine each of those thousands and millions and even billions representing lives changed. Glasses of clean water. Hours in a safe after-school program. Laws passed that support equity and opportunity.
All of this begs the question, “What would it mean for each of us to look for ways to truly multiply good at every opportunity — and how could we do it?”
At its core, addition is growth by accumulation; the total is quite literally the sum of its parts. Addition is what happens when what I bring and what you bring are allowed to pull in the same direction.
But multiplication is different. Multiplication is growth by collaboration. The product is far greater than any of the individual parts, because those parts interact. Your efforts multiply mine, my efforts multiply yours, and together, we start a chain reaction of good.
The “x” at the center of your favorite brand collab? (See: Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama or Nike x Tiffany.) We don’t think that “x” is there by accident. We think that’s the multiplication mindset in action.
Addition can happen as long as we’re willing to co-operate. Addition happens between “vendors and clients.” It happens between “agencies and contractors.”
But multiplication is only possible when we “get” each other. It requires curiosity, trust, and a willingness to risk. It happens between collaborators, partners, and (dare we say it?) friends.
Addition is a business agreement. Multiplication is missional interdependence.
And it doesn’t stop there…
Addition is risk-avoidant. Multiplication is opportunity-seeking.
Addition asks “What boxes need to be checked?” Multiplication asks “What potential haven’t we considered?”
Where addition assumes more impact requires more effort, more resources, and more time, multiplication maximizes what we already have.
Addition thinks only about today’s return. Multiplication goes further, to also consider tomorrow’s legacy.
At OX, we’re not content with adding value to the world. We’re committed to multiplying good for humanity.
We’re surrounded by people like you who share our passion to make a multiplied impact, clients, partners, and collaborators who are hungry to make things better. We’re inspired by and accountable to that collective hunger.
When we look in the mirror today, we see ways that we’re still stuck in the addition mindset. But when we look forward to the years ahead, we aim to multiply good in everything we do.
So, we’re challenging ourselves to think more aggressively about the solutions we offer our clients, asking not “Does this move the needle?” but rather, “Does this multiply impact?”
We’re considering how emerging technologies like AI and Web3 can support talented, heartfelt people to make big visions achievable.
We’re pursuing new ways to build soulful storytelling on rock-solid research.
And as a team, we’re evaluating the way we spend every hour of every day, asking, “How can we make this hour count for more?”
To borrow from Jana Stanfield, we know that none of us can do all the good the world needs. But we want to make every day, every dollar, every meeting, and every moment multiply good — because the world needs all the good we can do.
Falling sky or not, there’s no question that times like these call for courage.
Courageous leadership. Courageous inclusion. Courageous surrender. Courageous creative.
Times like these call for the courage to multiply good. Let’s multiply it together.