Last month, we discussed the symptoms of that terrible disease from which many of us suffer -- BPID (Business Professionals Innovation Deficiency) Syndrome. The good news is that I have a cure.
I recommend five steps to curing this syndrome -- five steps to seeing your Harvey, to seeing the invisible, to seeing what others are unable to see. These may seem very basic, but as any professional athlete -- any Olympian -- would quickly remind you, victory often comes from sticking to the basics.
1. Learn to see the world through your clients' eyes. There is a great sales saying, "See the world through your clients' eyes and you will see the way your clients buy." Most of us have no idea of how our customers perceive us, our product or our service. Every morning, take one minute and imagine you are a client who is about to do business with you that day. What does he think when he thinks of doing business with you?
Does he find it a pain or a pleasure? Are you just another vendor? Are you a valuable, problem-solving resource that he can rely on? Are you professional? The key is to do this for each client.
2. Understand and embrace your new roles in the new world. William Shakespeare, almost 500 years ago, wrote, "All the world's a stage. All the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and each in his time plays many parts." Many of us have been playing our roles for far too long. We must rewrite our scripts if we're going to create our future.
I've identified five roles in my one-act play I'll call the future -- one is the lead and the others are supporting roles. You must take on these roles in your businesses to be more successful. The supporting roles are:
Challenge solver -- You no longer sell product or services; you solve your clients' challenges. You sell an experience. You look for challenges, then find different ways to solve them.
Solution broker -- You provide solutions. They may be solutions outside the marketing or advertising realm. Your clients turn to you in this role because of trust and loyalty, and they turn to you first.
Educator -- With the speed of change, our clients -- internal and external -- need to be educated. You can be an invaluable resource by positioning yourself as an educator and an information provider. The discount clothing retailer, Syms, has a great motto by which we should conduct business: "An educated consumer is our best customer."
Communication enhancer -- You can help in so many emerging possibilities if you look at your role not as a purveyor of a product or service but as a communication enhancer, a challenge solver or a solutions broker.
The lead, and most important role is questioner -- We must constantly ask ourselves, "What business am I really in?" I don't believe the majority of your answers would be the purpose of your business. None describe what you really do for a living.
I think the purpose of all of businesses is to attain and retain customers. If you don't create and keep customers, tomorrow you won't have a business.
What would happen if you stopped looking at your primary role in your business as the provider of ideas? If you don't have customers for whom to provide those ideas, and if the ideas don't work for the customers, it won't do you any good. What would happen if you looked at your emerging lead role as becoming a customer attaining and retaining agent?
When you think about it this way, several things happen. First, you aren't tied to a specific product or service because all you are doing is creating customers and continually filling their needs.
3. Learn to listen for whispers of possibility. Listen to ideas offered by your environment. When you think about environmental factors that influence your business, you may think of technology, change, diversity, economy, natural disaster, aging of America, pollution, government control, crime, downsizing. But look at these factors from a different perspective.
Within each environmental challenge is an opportunity. If the dinosaurs were able to do an accurate environmental survey, they might still be around.
Dinosaur companies that are unable to analyze their environments and look for opportunities within them face the same fate as the dinosaurs. We have to ask ourselves, 'What environmental factors we have been complaining about or ignoring that could present a real opportunity to create and retain new clients?'
4. Learn to think in new ways. Why is it important for an Olympic athlete to practice every day? To get better. How many people practice thinking in new ways as a real discipline? One reason much of our world is in a quandary as to how to solve our challenges is because of this inability to think in a new way.
Albert Einstein said, "Everything has changed except our ways of thinking." We have to apply the same disciplines in getting ourselves to think in new ways as we do in getting our bodies into shape or learning to play a musical instrument. Make opportunity-finding a habit every day.
Henry Ford said, "Thinking is the most difficult work in the world and that's why so few people ever do it." Most of us are thinking the same thoughts in the same way every day, and that's why we beat ourselves up for never having an original thought when we really need one. We don't practice thinking.
There is one secret at the core of being able to think in new ways -- one secret at the core of all innovation, of all creative genius. Every creative or innovative idea is the answer to one or more questions asked consciously or unconsciously. You can learn to create ideas at will, by learning to ask yourself the right questions on a regular basis.
It doesn't mean that we will all become creative geniuses; however, I do believe that we all have some natural talents over each other. Some are more naturally athletic than others and some are more naturally talented in music or math. But we can dramatically increase our creativity and innovative power by asking the right kinds of questions on a regular basis -- simply questioning the norm.
The final step in the Harvey Principle seems like an afterthought, but it is, in fact, the most important.
5. Learn how to connect the dots. An Chinese proverb says, "If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want a lifetime of prosperity, grow people."
The success and profitability of your organization are only as good its people. If you aren't helping them grow, if you aren't constantly learning and growing, if you aren't caring and compassionate, you can't win the game.
You commit to connecting the dots when you commit to the development of everyone with whom you come in contact, when you make a total commitment to absolute gender equality within your workplace and to keeping ethics above all else. You commit to connecting the dots when you take care of yourself mentally, physically, spiritually and financially, and when you commit to nurturing human potential in all aspects of your business. Take a few minutes over the next couple of days and ask yourself, "How can I bring more care, compassion and character into every aspect of my professional life?" This will get you started on your commitment to connecting the dots and seeing your own Harvey.
Free by fax: "6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Practice New Ways of Thinking."Fax your name on your letterhead to (412) 373-8773 with the words "6 Questions" for this free report.
Jeff Tobe, primary colorer at Monroeville-based Coloring Outside the Lines, teaches diverse businesses how to be creative in their sales and marketing strategies. Reach him at (412) 373-6592 or via his Web site, www.jefftobe.com.