We hear a lot about innovation in business. Thinking outside the box. Identifying the way things are done, finding better, more profitable…more effective ways of doing things. Innovation and invention are the evolution of business, but I think they happen for a simpler reason…Humans want to avoid pain.
Pain isn’t just a physical manifestation…it can also be emotional — as in avoiding the pain of drudgery, monotony, repetition…The pain of boredom. And in business…the pain can also be financial. The pain of missing forecasts, sales targets and similar metrics.
Pain is what humans are trying to avoid, and that is good news…because it ensures that we innovate or invent CONSTANTLY — keeping ahead of the pain. So…yeah, you are likely saying to yourself…no kidding! But peel it back. Ask yourself about the pain in YOUR life. How are you avoiding it…are you avoiding it? Is it painful enough for you to Innovate or Invent a way for you to avoid the existing pain?
I think you’ll find that you have been willing to endure greater and greater pain — pain that you have adapted to, rather than deal with the idea of addressing the root cause, and coming up with a way to eliminate it…because coming up with a new process is ITSELF painful, often confrontational…and the outcome is unknown…which is kind of scary.
Dealing with NOT ME
At some point, things break. Take sales for example. Sometimes, a sales process that has been put in place might start to prevent sales, which creates surprises..always at the end of a quarter…maybe leading to deeper inspection, which creates angst, which creates unnatural behavior and ultimately might destroy confidence and turn a successful team into broken, failed individuals…often replaced with new teams, who run into the circular buzz-saw…repeating a sad cycle.
It happens all the time, and it happens largely because of Not Me. As in…Who will fix this? Not me…so you don’t, and neither does anyone else.
This is kind of stupid…but it persists.
Be an Owner
Stop thinking like an employee. Own your business. Shifting your view of WHAT you do will change HOW you do your job. It doesn’t matter if you are in sales, service, or business development…just ask yourself a few questions:
1. Who is your customer?
2. What are they trying to do?
3. How can you help them?
This gives you a framework do your job. It will fill your calendar with activities to understand your business, understand their business, and identify the obstacles that are in front of both of you. Obstacles that you will need to solve to achieve your objectives…together. If you approach this task as an OWNER, you don’t have to wait for someone to fix a broken process. It becomes YOUR responsibility, and you need to feel empowerment to act. Even if it means confronting pain.
Break the Cycle of “Always Done That Way”
Processes are meant to be followed because they work. A process should NOT be followed blindly…especially if it prevents efficiency. This requires constant monitoring, review and innovation.
When software code breaks, it causes problems…and patches get deployed. Do the same thing when it comes to attending to your business. Don’t complain. Don’t hide behind process. Don’t let the system slow you down. Address the issue…press the issue…and make a suggestion to solve the issue…repeatedly until it gets done. Why? Because you will fail YOUR business, and your customer if you don’t.
“But I did everything I was supposed to do”, won’t comfort you when you can’t achieve your numbers, or when you lose a customer because you can’t move quickly enough.
Take responsibility for yourself and add value to the ever-evolving PROCESS. It’s never as hard to change things as you think…it just requires persistence, a defensible reason, and some common sense. It requires action. Invent a better way.
Innovate…one small suggestion at a time. The best ideas are usually the simple ones.
Parting thought…any time you cook a meal, there is a chance you might burn your hand. It happens. But really…how many times would you prepare your “Favorite” meal if you EXPECTED to burn your hand?
Shift your view.
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