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The Harvey Principle Featured

9:41am EDT July 22, 2002

This is the first in a two-part series.

Peter Drucker, management guru, once said, “The only way to predict the future is to create it.”

In these times of turbulent change, you have a unique challenge and a unique opportunity because you have the capacity to create your future from scratch — by reinventing your business. You have no choice but to reinvent what you do. In this crazy marketplace, you absolutely have to shatter old models of doing business.

The main principle of creating a more positive, productive and profitable future is, I would suggest, a notion that less than 1 percent of you really understand. I don’t mean to be condescending; I am simply observing that most of you have probably not taken the time to even consider this.

Once you understand it, this principle goes far beyond positive thinking, goal setting and any of the traditional rules of success. If you understand — really understand — and apply this principle, you will never be afraid of the future. You will always know that, no matter what happens, you can come out of it profitably and productively.

The number one principle in creating a profitable, productive and positive outcome is what I refer to as the Harvey Principle. That wonderful 1950 movie, starring Jimmy Stewart and his imaginary rabbit friend, Harvey, suggested that perhaps the one with the imagination — the innovative one — was not the crazy one after all.

We have to learn to see the invisible. To see the invisible opportunities where others only see limitations. To see the invisible potential of the people with whom you work. To see the invisible ideas that change the world.

The building in which you work started as an invisible, intangible, idea in the mind of a single person. That person’s ability to see the invisible — what was not apparent in physical form — ultimately produced a structure.

Every great invention starts in the mind — in the invisible. Every great entrepreneur sees invisible possibilities — untapped needs — in a marketplace that needs to be served. The most important skill you can learn in creating your own future is the Harvey Principle.

Fortunately, many of your competitors are suffering from what may be an incurable and deadly disease. It is mental, not physical, and no one has been known to die from it physically ... only financially. It’s been known to be hazardous to the financial wealth of entrepreneurs and corporations alike.

But never fear. Consider the symptoms of the disease, which should help you arrest them in yourself and your organization ... so you won’t have to pay thousands to see a specialist after it’s too late for you or your company.

The symptoms are caused by a virus, BPID, or Business Professionals’ Innovation Deficiency. It is a mental affliction that will erode your profits very quickly and keep you office-bound while your competition is healthy and fit.

I’ve discovered seven symptoms, which are the primary reasons people are unable to see their “Harvey.”

1. Internal myopia — Myopia is near-sightedness, and those of you with internal myopia are so focused on the internal aspects of your organization that you can’t see what’s happening around you. You fail to see the big picture.

2. Ostrich syndrome — Ostriches bury their heads in the sand while they leave another part of themselves exposed, if you know what I mean. If you have the ostrich syndrome, you may not simply ignore reality, you may choose to deny it even exists. Some may even deny the fact that information technology will change the way you do business

3. Past-a-plegia — This means paralysis in the past, looking in your rear-view mirror. “What was good enough for the company in the ’80s is good enough nowadays!” In the words of a large automobile manufacturer, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” This is not the way business has been done in the past, yet I find so many organizations suffering from this syndrome. Little things hang around from the past to haunt us.

4. Psychosclerosis — That’s hardening of the attitudes. It’s also known as “My way or the highway.”

5. Feedback immunity — Do you know anyone who is immune to feedback? Sure. This doesn’t just mean feedback from a superior or peer but, more important, feedback from the marketplace. Some people ignore this symptom because they are so married to the success of the idea that they are unable to process the feedback of the marketplace when it doesn’t work.

6. Expertitis — Expertitis occurs when you know so much about one area that you become convinced that all the ideas in that area have been invented, so you might as well not think of any more. Take the guy in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office who, in 1899, went on a crusade to close the government agency because, he said, everything that was going to be invented already had been. Then he proceeded to ride home on his horse.

7. Failure-phobia — This is the fear of making mistakes. Tom Peters, in his book, “Surviving on Chaos,” says “successful businesses are those who can fail fast and often.” Although most people are afraid of making mistakes, you can never learn without making them. Most people aren’t comfortable with the idea of making mistakes —- of failing, but mistakes are a necessary bi-product of the creative process.

Mistakes are opportunities for learning. Part II of the series will discuss the cure to BPID. Jeff Tobe, Primary Colorer at Monroeville-based Coloring Outside the Lines, teaches diverse businesses how to be creative in their sales and marketing strategies. Subscribe to his free creativity newsletter at www.jefftobe.com or contact him at (412) 373-6592.