A recent client of mine is in a very dynamic technology based industry which has gone through tremendous growth in the last ten years. As a result of this and relatively low barriers to entry they are now in an extremely competitive space with a race to the bottom on price fuelled by clients being able to switch easily and low perceived points of difference between large established and small operators that are new entrants. They also have the challenge of being regulated which continually adds to their operational cost. In short, business is tough.
In strategy sessions requested to set up and consider different ways of competing, the group concluded with the points above and more. It was clear that something different needed to be done and everyone agreed with this. But when it came to spending time thinking about this change, there was a reluctance to engage. The group agreed that ‘someone’ should spend time thinking about alternative ways that they could do business. However there were no takers.
I’ve seen many groups and in these situations one of a couple of things normally happen. Somebody grabs it as an opportunity to make difference and an impact. If nobody grabs it then the CEO will either assign it or take it themselves so as to either drive it or persuade somebody to drive it outside the strategy session. In this case nobody was coming forward.
The challenge of this situation is that the piece of work has unknown outcomes. This is scary for many people. Taking on a task which is to think about different ways of doing things can be really exciting but it is also risky. It is undefined work, work that can easily be shot down because it cannot easily be compared to something else. If however we stick with what we know things are a lot safer and predictable.
To break out of the unknown we need to take risks. Risk taking implies not knowing the outcome.
This is hard and very rewarding when it comes off.
Which is why doing the safe thing quickly gets unrewarding.
To get rewards (the real kind that we feel internally), we need to jump in.
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