Perspective From Higher Ground: Business and Problem Solving

I remember as a kid always talking to ankles and knees when an adult approached to greet me.  And then there was that awkward look up to try to see his or her face.  As an adult I'm sensitive to that moment, so I bend down to get at eye level with a youngster. 

Recently I visited the Gettysburg Battlefields and I felt a little bit of that looking at the ankles feeling as I looked at the base of large trees that surround portions of the grounds. 

As we got to Cemetery Hill, we found ourselves atop the tree line, overlooking the battlefield, and what happened there became very clear.

As I reflected on the moment later, it got me thinking about how some of us conduct business today.  You know ... a few years ago the "big thing" movement  in business was to think outside the box.  The battle cry was if you want to advance in your career, don't do what you've always done.  That will just get you what it's always gotten you.  You must think outside the boxif you want to move your business forward.  So, business men and women began to look increasingly to technology for creativity in leadership and for new ideas in communication and in management.  And now as we move to higher ground and we review where thinking outside the box has led us, we find that what's happening outside the box isn't all good, and in some significant areas.

For example, communication has grown exponentially digitally.  Voice mail, email, text messaging, video conferencing, while great tools, have left younger entrants into the business world lacking in face-to-face communication skills.  Leadership sometimes delivers bad news digitally, coldly, mercilessly to save difficult face-to-face moments.  Teamwork is conducted in less than a civil manner often initiated by carelessly crafted e-mails.  Here are some other thoughts about outside-the-box thinking. 

A website called Lateral Action states,"The research evidence suggests that thinking outside the box fails to produce the expected creative solution. And far from being a hindrance, past experience and training can actually be the key to creative problem-solving."

So, before you think outside the box to create new solutions to age-old problems in business, take a look from a higher perspective.   Like experience maybe?  Training is a good idea, too.  It just so happens that Outfluence is conducting a 3-part series this Fall in Westminster, Maryland that will address this question:  What did we leave behind when we began thinking outside the box?  Visit in a few weeks when we will begin publishing information about the series.  It begins in September.

This event occurred in the Fall of 2016.

Business Owners: Who Are We Listening To?

If you are a business owner, you most likely receive a lot of unsolicited advice and unwelcome comments.  You may also receive advice that you pay for.  Who do you listen to and who do you ignore?  I listen to all of them.

Here's why:  The unsolicited advice and the unwelcome comments keep me motivated.  Not too long ago I ran into a guy who went into business a few years after I began Outfluence.  He took on a lot of debt and constructed an impressive facility for his business.  He got off to a great start.  The visuals were excellent.  But now the doors were closed and litigation was looming.  As we spoke, he asked me how my venture was doing.  I told him we were still "climbing the mountain."  He laughed and commented about how long we had "been at it."  I chose not to incur outside debt in my venture but instead chose to invest time and personal funds to gradually improve my product and slowly position my company.  I was still climbing while he had been derailed by debt. 

Another person told me that his friends told him that my business would not succeed because I didn't have the ability to make it work.  Now, how many times have you heard stories of successful people of whom similar comments were made?  Oh, he'll never be able to do it; or, she's too weak to withstand the pressure.  I chose to listen to successful people who were encouraging me to keep going, people who were leading me to resources that would support me, people who were where I wanted to be.  Why would I listen to someone who was going south when I wanted to go north? 

I have written before about my friend who counseled me that it sometimes takes 10 years for a business to reach maturity.  I am in a business that requires others to make a commitment to change.  Change does not occur quickly.  It took us six years to reach maturity in our business.  Most businesses fail in the first three years.  Had Ilistened to the naysayers, I may have ended my business journey too soon. 

Remember that clear vision you had for your business in the early days?  Chances are your vision has been changed by circumstances, or opportunity, or market conditions, or knowledge gained over time.  Listen to the marketplace, listen to your customers, listen to your heart, and persist.  Never quit.  Be open to change. 

Listen to everyone but listen most intently to people who are where you want to go.