Saturday, November 12, 2011

Because Nobody Else Does It That Way

I was talking with a business organization that was struggling with the best way to schedule their monthly networking breakfasts.  They were receiving complaints about their 7:00 AM start time being too early, but kicking off at 7:30 would push their ending to 9:30 (which means attendees cannot get back to their office until nearly 10 AM).

A first thought was to cut the program length to 90 minutes.  They believed this is too short to have time for networking, announcements and a full program.

My other suggestion was splitting the difference --  beginning at 7:15... and ending at 9:00.  Seemed like a good way to allow people time to arrive, and still giving them the opportunity to get everything done (with a shaving of 15 minutes off the program as well).

Oh the horror.  You would have thought I suggested they all attend their meeting naked.

While I was not in the meeting where these ideas were discussed, one person told me the group felt that a 7:15 AM start time was "weird".  One of their people made a bold statement that "nobody starts a meeting on the quarter hour" (nobody?...Ummmm, I have seen it done, so that is not true).  Additionally they felt that the length of 1:45 would confuse the people. 

In the end they kept the schedule of 7:00 - 9:00 AM.

"Because nobody else does it that way" is a lame argument.  In fact going away from the standard is often the best way to create.  

I just finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson.  The book is a fantastic read (it shows the genius and demons that co-existed in Jobs).  I am confident that the Apple co-founder, or anyone else who has ever made a meaningful difference, never had the "we don't do it that way" knee-jerk reaction.

I wonder what would have happened if Jobs had thought it was weird to combine the music player and a phone.  Think of the result if he had feared others would view the iPad as abnormal.  Apple has topped the Fortune 500 exactly because they sought new ways to do things.  Weird or different are not bad things if you want to stand out from the competition.

I am not comparing a 7:15 AM start time for a networking breakfast to the launching of the iTunes Store. However, if you cannot get beyond how a quarter hour start time and a 1:45 program might be judged, you will never present a program that has lasting impact on your audience.  

I believe most of us struggle in finding ways to uniquely stand out from our competition.  It is hard to create, and comfortable to stay close to the status quo.  It can be worse when you go with your new ideas, and others question your decisions along the way.  You must have both vision and fortitude when you do things differently.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


Anonymous said...

Start them at 7:18 and really mess with them

Randy Streetman said...

They all complain, but they aren't willing to change. As someone told me many years ago, "If you always do everything the way everybody else would do it, you'll always have what everybody else wants....but you'll NEVER have what you want."

Nancy Shields said...

It was a great suggestion. They will continue to wrestle with this issue. It won't go away.

Kathryn said...

Great blog - I'd like to endorse this idea.

I'm a volunteer committee member of a not for profit organisation. Everyone has a day job too.

We have a regular teleconference meeting that starts at 5:15pm because we all found it too hard to stop the day job at 5pm

It works brilliantly for us.