Today’s screed is a little backwards. As you might have noticed, much of the time I’m taking something I learned or realized and applying the point to business. Today I want to do the opposite – take a business point and apply it to life outside of business.
I don’t believe that anyone who plans on staying in business for very long chooses to be ignorant of what’s going on in that business. Sales reports, analytics, financial reports and such are all part of the daily life of a businessperson. In fact, one big complaint I hear from clients is that they’re often overwhelmed with the amount of information that’s available to them and they need help sorting it out to understand what it all means. They do NOT, however, simply ignore it. They also tend not to take a single piece of data that supports their world view and ignore many others that contradict their position without a number of damn good reasons to do so. Using a good sales report to say you’re doing well while ignoring the P/L that shows you’re losing money on each sale isn’t just irresponsible – it’s suicidal.
Most of us who’ve been doing this for a while (like more than a year, frankly) understand this. So what has me baffled is why we chose to do exactly the opposite when it comes to our government. No, this isn’t a political statement but yes, it is about politics. I’ve spoken with a number of pretty smart people lately who have done with their political views something they would never do in business. They didn’t get the facts or let one fact which supported whatever world view they had obliterate an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary. In some ways it’s like my grandmother choosing to vote for the Jewish-sounding names regardless of their political positions – she had the only fact she wanted and chose ignorance about the rest.
We live in an age where there is a lot of information about issues. Some of it is carefully researched, some is twisted into propaganda, and some is totally made up. It’s not easy to sort it out but each of us has to try, whatever our own beliefs about an issue and a candidate. What are the facts? Is what a candidate saying today the same as what they said last week or month or year? Do they acknowledge inconsistencies in their positions? Is someone telling the truth (and please let me know when you find someone who is!).
Obviously I support certain candidates and have positions on the issues but I respect those who disagree as long as they’ve got a grasp of the facts and have thought through their positions. We never choose ignorance in business because if we do we’re not in business for very long. Why would any of us chose to do so with something that has an even greater impact on our collective lives?
I spent part of the weekend watching the UEFA Euro Tournament.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you’re into the sport of soccer, it’s must-see TV and the matches have, in general, lived up to the tournament’s stature as the best football tournament on the planet behind the FIFA World Cup. During one of the games, the commentator described a player in a way that triggered an immediate business thought and that’s today’s topic.
The defender was described as having “a lack of pace but always a perfect reading of the situation so he’s quite valuable.” In other words, he has the ability to read the situation on the field, react appropriately, and is rarely out of position even though he’s pretty slow relative to the other players on the pitch. In my mind, that’s a good description of some desirable business traits as well.
How many executives do you know that act on knee-jerk reactions? When they’re right, they’re often ahead of the field or have headed off a problem before it starts. When they’re wrong, however, they often spend resources chasing markets that don’t develop or betting on new technologies that never pan out. They end up out of position.
As businesspeople we can’t confuse activity for progress. Moving quickly is always desirable but moving a bit more slowly while compensating for our lack of speed with a much better understanding of the situation is even more desirable in my book. It’s not a particularly new thought: we’ve all heard the fable of the tortoise and the hare and I expect we all know a few folks we’d describe as “slow.” Slow is, in my mind, a relative thing – if they get to where they need to be because they can analyze a situation and react appropriately within the available time frame, they’re pretty valuable.
How about in yours?
For our Foodie Friday Fun this week I refer you to an article on the Eater/Philadelphia blog.
(Photo credit: pomarc)
It makes a statement about food that just might have some business implications too. Let’s see what you think.
In a piece entitled The 10 Signs Your Menu Is Out Of Style, they assert the following:
…what we eat is strongly influenced by the trickle-down effect of creative ideas and the cultural atmosphere we’re making decisions in. But, at what point does an ingredient or dish that once seemed utterly fresh become completely stale?
A classic like roast chicken may be safe, but most dishes are not so timeless. For example: The Korean taco. What started as a food-truck highlight from Kogi in Los Angeles has wended its way to TGI Friday’s menus everywhere. And recently, a bacon-studded sundae has appeared at Burger King. When a dish turns up on a chain restaurant menu, it’s over.
I agree – there’s a huge difference between a classic that’s widely executed with varying degrees of success and something “trendy” that loses its cutting edge. Of course, that’s kind of true about anything in business, isn’t it? The problem with trendy is that it becomes passe. Or as Yogi once said about why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
If your business is built around catering to the masses, grabbing the latest thing and making it widely available is a good thing. More often than not, we’re not about mass anymore – we fulfill niches, we serve highly segmented audiences, and we can’t afford to let the rest of the world catch up or dilute our magic potion. Apple is the best at this (and yes, they serve mass markets but they’ve moved on by the time others catch up).
So what’s on your menu these days? Classics? Something others will be dumbing down for their own menus in six months? Or are you trying to stay afloat serving up stale versions of other’s creativity? Think about it!