Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shun the Status Quo to See the Possibilities to Accomplish 20 Times as Much

Organizations usually underestimate the potential value of the most important new information, technology, and ways of operating. This error occurs because the new information or resource unexpectedly makes untrue what has been undeniably true in the past.

Achieving 2,000 percent solutions is a good example of this tendency. While hundreds of organizations routinely develop and implement such solutions every day, the majority of businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governments continue to focus on how to make 4, 5, or 6 percent improvements. With the same time, effort, and resources, these people could be accomplishing hundreds of times more!

What is a 2,000 percent solution? It’s any way of accomplishing 20 times more with the same time, effort, and resources. Why would you shoot for less?

Here’s an example: A best selling business book will usually be read in part by fewer than 10,000 people. Chop the book up instead into essays and provide those essays for free over the Internet, and you will soon have over 500,000 readers. The time, effort, and expense of putting up those essays will be less than finding an agent for a book. Lead those essay readers to your Web site and you’ll sell more books than a best selling business book, and you’ll earn more profit because you won’t have to split the revenues with a publisher.

Disbelief: Limited Imagination and Blind Spots

The disbelief stall (a bad habit that delays improvements) is based on a valid experience, lack of relevant experience, or a previously established circumstance that no longer pertains. The bigger the new idea, the more likely it will boggle the minds of those involved.

Consider this: Over a hundred years ago, Alexander Graham Bell supposedly offered his fledgling telephone business to Western Union for $100,000. Western Union reportedly turned him down cold, perceiving the telephone as an electrical toy with a limited future. Bell himself initially saw the telephone as limited to use as a substitute for town criers. Householders wondered, “Why get a telephone when I can step outside and talk to my neighbor over the back fence?” The airplane, radio, computers, and the photocopier were greatly underestimated in similar ways before becoming the foundations for major industries. Major breakthroughs change the possibilities of how we can lead our lives, and we are slow to see that undeveloped potential.


Creative People with Different Viewpoints

In checking out new information, technology, and techniques, seek the help of people who enjoy creating new solutions. You may find these open-minded people among suppliers, new employees, customers, and outside experts, including academics. If you don’t have enough such people to draw on, expand your circle of acquaintances.

In the same way that no two people have identical kinds of curiosity and imagination, organizations likewise differ in how they look at potential new solutions. You can easily imagine that Intel, Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, and Disney would take quite different approaches to addressing the same opportunity. You should examine your organization’s personality and orientation to consider how your perspective can be expanded in useful ways, perhaps by adding new partners and new competencies.

Positive Thinking Starts the Exponential Progress Engine

To overcome the disbelief stall, you need a positive outlook. You have to believe that wonderful results are just around the corner, if only you keep looking for improvements.

Ask yourself a positive question about any possibility you consider. For instance, imagine that you are being asked to use a computer in a totally different and more difficult way for the first time. Instead of fighting this new assignment, ask yourself how the task could help you get home sooner every night. A manager recently had a good experience from opening himself up to this opportunity. An IT expert noticed that the manager didn’t know how to do a mail merge, a way to produce custom documents for many people on a list. At first, the manager resented the few minutes of unexpected training. But that attitude soon changed after many monotonous tasks were accomplished 20 times faster.

At the same time, it’s even more helpful to adopt new beliefs that open the doors to possibility. A good example is that many people will never read this article because they think it’s far-fetched to find even one 2,000 percent solution. A better belief to hold is that untapped 2,000 percent solutions abound in your most important opportunity areas.

Other helpful attitudes include:

• Seeing roadblocks as opportunities in disguise

• Feeling that all events occur to help you improve

• Believing that large changes can be made quickly to create positive results

• Being convinced that new technology can easily remove old limitations

• Believing that high goals are more fun to pursue


Locate Blind Spots

The more often you hear about something, the more likely the new thing is to be relevant to your organization. It helps to seek out the new to speed up the process of appreciating what’s going on. To help identify your organization’s blind spots, ask yourself the following questions:

• What complaints are customers making that you’ve chosen to downplay?

• What things are your competitors doing that you have decided to ignore?

• What things are the communities you do business in talking about that you have ignored so far?

• What negative feedback have you been receiving from employees for at least two years?

• What perceptions about your organization and industry are you not addressing?

Evaluate the Implications of the Blind Spots

Ask yourself these questions about your blind spots:

• Which blind spots are in areas where your organization’s actions can improve or worsen your situation?

• What actions are needed to gain the most benefit or avoid the most harm?

• When are actions needed to be most effective?

• What is the minimum evidence you need to know that immediate action is needed?

Donald W. Mitchell

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