Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Seeking Answers To The Tough Questions

Can a person train themselves to be better at spotting unseen opportunities? Gosh, I hope so.

I am always amazed at people who can spot trends and capitalize on creating whole new industries. I want to be better at seeing things that do not exist and helping to blaze a path toward making them a new reality. Companies and individuals need to explore new territory or they become stale.

I find that groups can do this when they brainstorm, but need to be comfortable enough with each other to allow the creative juices to flow and freely take form. But often people are caught up with preconceived notions to really let the ideas germinate into new solutions. People want to be "big tent thinkers", but in practice they all have small tents.

I recently spoke to a corporate business consultant who says he produces increases in his client's EBITDA by 80% in 12 months. Although he charges large sums of money, all of his clients can serve as references because they all see results. I was curious why everyone he meets does not work with him (as what CEO would not want an 80% increase in EBITDA?), and he says that he refuses to take clients who do not listen and will not embrace change. The process of reinventing a company's direction can be painful and many just do not want the risk of discomfort.

Many times people are so sure that they know what to do to succeed that they never get anywhere. I understand this, as I can get stuck in ruts just like the next person. One needs to be open minded to take the road less traveled and create new paths.

I spent an hour alone with a pen and a large white board the other day. While I did not find the answers to all I query, I did feel that I made progress in uncovering what can hold me back from success.

In today's high tech world many of our products and services are viewed as commodities. Even when we know that we offer things that are unique, the clients just do not see the differences. Or maybe they do not care. They rationalize any number of things in their mind to be able to bypass the realities we know to be self-evident.

Thus it all comes back to reputation. But can our reputations become commodities? It seems like doing good work is just the minimum fee we must pay to play in the game of business. A good reputation is needed to survive, so does that distinguish us from those with whom we compete?

It comes back to needing to see new ways to position ourselves, our products, and our companies that have not been identified by the competition. And how does one do this? What does it take to have that "ahhh ha" moment when you realize you just won the game many moves before the end is even near?

Alas, I am still looking for these answers. But I believe.

Have A Great Day.



Zita Gustin said...

Hi Thom,

Your post got me to thinking. You are right that many people prefer their comfort zone to actually seeing where they need to change and then implementing steps to create the change. And, it's always easier to see where other's ought to change than to turn that magnifying glass around on ourselves. Bravo to you for your exercise at the whiteboard (it might be fun to see what was on your list!)

With regard to our reputations becoming commodities, I think that people who treat their own reputation/character as a commodity will be seen that way because it is all too easy to be just "common" in how you act and present yourself. For those who go the extra mile, who hold themselves to a higher standard, who walk their talk and stay tuned in to their true selves ... these folks could never be seen as a commodity. And that is because these qualities are fairly rare and those who have them and maintain them are at the top of their game.

Thom Singer said...

Zita- Thanks for the great comment. I find that many people think their reputation is beyond commmon, but that is not how others see them. They do good work and think that is enough or that it stands out, but the reality it that being good is now common.

You are right that to stand out you must go beyond the call of duty.

Thanks for being a part of the Some Assembly Required community!


James T. Parsons said...

Hey Thom,

Can you tell I was in a blogging mood? ;-) (multiple posts in your various articles!)

You stated, "The process of reinventing a company's direction can be painful and many just do not want the risk of discomfort." I think often the trail-blazer is a tough spot to be - since often people don't want to hear that change is required, or what it will take to achieve the goals. While I don't like being inclined to shake things up, I often find myself doing that - sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, sometimes just upsetting the apple cart.

Ultimately, I don't think success though is about an individual but the team s/he works with, and what position that individual fits best within on the team. You clearly do a great job in many areas, and if you want to become the trailblazer in some, definite do that - but also see that the value you can provide can also be served in the ways you currently serve.

I think what visionaries often need are people who will listen, be thoughtful, question when there are concerns or short-sighted areas they have missed, etc., rather than being too reactive and too quick to dismiss with "but that isn't how it is done." Such individuals about which you speak - who find success in developing that next thing - only succeed because the rest of the team are there.

Again, good post and good insight!