Critical Thinking or “As Time Goes By”

I have come to the conclusion that one of the biggest challenges for today’s businesses is the lack of critical thinking time. No more do we have time to “chew” on a problem or “mull over” an idea. Words like cogitate and ruminate are almost extinct.

Instead we are driven by a pace measured in nano-seconds and kilobytes. We are reachable everywhere — if you don’t believe me count the number of times you hear a phone conversation in the stall next to you — all the time. The expectation of receiving an instant answer, or decision is bolstered by our ability to text message, email, IM or track down our colleagues on any vacation.

I’m not a neophyte that believes we need to abandon our technical progress of the past 20 years. Nor do I advocate abandoning the countless benefits the business world has experienced with the removal of communication barriers, the development of new technology and implementation of advanced processes. That said, I do think there should be more room for simple thinking, ideating, innovating, discussing, and considering the world, the problems, the opportunities and even the visions of a business.

A creative organization that is positioned to manage itself through the chaotic environment of today’s marketplace demands innovative solutions that make surprising connections. Today there is a dependence on speed and time, which makes it difficult to build a creative foundation. And yet, it is creativity and innovation that keeps any business growing and moving forward.

The result of all this speed and technology? Relationships within organizations are not as strong, depth of knowledge and skills are sometimes lost and business-changing ideas are swept aside as not a quick enough fix. When I worked at Hallmark back in the late 80’s and early 90’s one of my managers told me (and I agree) that good businesses are born out of good decisions based on good people doing good work for people they trust in a place they enjoy coming to.

I think that is still true — we just have to give ourselves the time to get there.

Warning, Conventional Wisdom Ahead

I overheard a conversation at lunch today between two business folks. Now I don’t know whether they were boss/employee or just colleagues, but the older one uttered a phrase that all but stopped the discussion – “Well, conventional wisdom says…”

There are many phrases that masquerade as positive feedback or analysis but are truly meant to stop whatever ideation or innovation is occurring. “Conventional Wisdom” is one of the worst offenders.

Used by an authority figure (Manager, CEO, Industry Analyst, Consultant, Mentor, etc.,) its hidden meaning screams “No that isn’t how we are going to do it.” It could also mean, “you don’t know about which (or to whom) you are talking.” Either way, this is an ideation and innovation stopper.

“Conventional Wisdom” should not be a static thought, but one that is challenged over time and experience. Businesses change, customers change, investors change – so yesterday’s conventional wisdom could be the very reason a great company falls into old and sloppy habits.

So the next time someone says, “Well, conventional wisdom…” be reminded of what Gandhi said –

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

Mahatma Gandhi
Indian ascetic & nationalist leader (1869 – 1948)

Little Things Pay Off

I spent several hours writing at my local library today. Before I cloistered myself in my favorite cubicle, I stopped by a local eatery for my favorite sandwich – a bacon cheddar egg bagel. (We can talk health issues later!) When my sandwich was delivered I did the same thing I have done every other time I have ordered it – turned the bacon around.

You see, they make the sandwich — bottom, egg, bacon, cheese, top – and then they cut it in half to make it easier to eat. Inevitably they cut it so that the bacon lays perpendicular to the cut.

So what you ask?

Well, the bacon mostly hangs over the edge of the sandwich instead of being on the sandwich causing it to be eaten separately or having to turn the bacon around.

So what you ask? (again)

Well, as much as I like this restaurant – and I do – Whenever I talk about it, the only thing I usually mention is turning my own bacon around.

No matter how great things are, it’s the little things that get remembered and shared. Take a look at your business interactions and see if your customers have to turn their own bacon around. The time you spend fixing the little things will pay off in the long run.

Odd Time for Branding

I don’t get it.

Why are companies so anxious to associate themselves with “bad” things these days? Watching a couple hours of television and I am inundated with messages that suggest: ilicit sex, lying (lots and lots of lying), stealing, egotism (paired with its cousin narcissism) and just plain rudeness. The list could go on but it only gets more depressing.

Have we as a consumer pool become so jaded in life that the only way we can get excited is to “live on the wild side” through our products?

Granted, there have always been a handful of products that promised walking with the bad boys such as Harley Davidson. Today however, these messages are pervasive through many product catergories.

Somewhere along the line advertising, especially television, became all about the “ad” instead of the product. Is it edgy enough? Does it shout loud enough? Is the “ewww” factor high enough? (OK I made that one up but it sounds like it should be on the list!)

And people wonder why advertising is becoming less and less important in the overall branding strategy of many companies.