By Ken Ingram
I recently read Josh Linker’s book “Disciplined Dreaming“. It was another great reminder of how important it is to continually challenge your business model. If you are not tinkering with your business at least once a week, sooner or later one of your competitors will start to tinker with you.
Let’s face it your competitors are probably not actively plotting to take market share or business from you. Nevertheless, if you are not actively expanding your creative vision, you could wake up one morning and fine someone else has implemented your dream.
Complacency is not an option. Every day a new business opens while an old one shuts its doors. Consequently you need to take control and be the one with the audacity to decide what the future will be and not wait until circumstances force you into a corner. You have to be disciplined enough to spend time working on your business while working in your business.
“Today is tomorrow’s yesterday.”
Take a moment to let this quote really sink in. “Today is tomorrow’s yesterday.” You are in fact living your past today. Now is your chance to influence and change your history today. Think about it now. In a recent news story on business management, it was suggested that you “think like a designer”. Good designers look at the world with a different viewpoint and awareness. They have unique views that enable them to come up with new products and innovations. They tend to think about people, not just customers.
For every one new product they come up with, they have four more on the drawing board waiting to be launched. As an example, I have never seen a survey asking if I needed an iPod or needed the ability to text messages. Please let me know if you have. These things did not just happen but just appeared on the market overnight and became indispensable immediately. They came about through a carefully developed plan, implemented, and adjusted as required. Designers move beyond asking what customers want and think they need. They believe that the general public “don’t know what they don’t know yet”. They create something that they feel people will yearn for. You could say that is a risky but essential way of doing business.
How do you begin such a process? One way may be to work with a business coach who can help you explore multiple ideas. Who will help you to tap into your creative side in order to establish potential future trends in your particular area of business? You could also hire innovative and inventive people that have the ability to look at things upside-down instead of right-side-up, or even outside the box as it were. Another way might be to get out in the world, scrutinize, and observe what people do. We have to move beyond the traditional thinking constraints we all have. We need to see through what people tell us they need (or think they need) and start to really observe what they are actually doing and how it is accomplished. You might be quite surprised to learn how the need and actual end-result is accomplished differ and how large the gap is between what they say, what they are actually doing and how they are accomplishing it. Many of us are too focused on the present but the designers who live in the mystery of the future can foresee the future needs. They live by credo “yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today a gift, which is why today is called the present”.
To all business owners reading this article, my challenge to you will be to take advantage of this great gift that is the present we all have and start crafting what people will need tomorrow by stepping out of your current beliefs and start thinking like a designer.
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The questions you will need to answer after reading this article are the following: What will you start doing differently tomorrow? And how do you propose to keep score? When will you become capable of being a disruptive force of change in order to bring out the best you can be and the best your employees can be?
What will you or your employees do differently that will drive the business results to a new level over the next six to 12 months? Remember it takes 60 to 90 days for the change to be internalized. Your quit line will need to be longer than most of the people you know.
In one business we worked with, the owner was doing twice as much as the employees. She was working 60 to 70 hours a week and had no time to take vacation. Today she works more ON her business and less IN the business. Simply by developing improved leadership skills she was able to tap into her employees’ underused potential – a seemingly impossible task only a few years ago. She is now able to take a three week vacation twice a year while everyone contributes to the overall business objectives. Each person is working not only on delivering services; they are now acting in the best interest of the business and customers.
Interdependencies have been developed along with the owner. Everyone has become an integral part of the business. For this type of change to happen, one must be open-minded enough to allow employees the opportunity to bring ideas to the monthly team meetings. Ideas that contribute towards the overall short and long term strategy. Those employees who work with the customers, in turn, will listen to the customers’ needs and what they are looking for and want. You differentiate your business from another by creating those breathless moments in time that your customers, and yourself as a customer yearn for.