“The world is changing faster than ever before.”
“We need to adapt to the change or we will get run over by it.”
“The paradigm has shifted and the world will never be the same.”
“Robotics and AI (Artificial Intelligence) will disrupt every industry and company on the planet.”
The hype from the media about the change happening in the world is nearly overwhelming. As such, many of us live in fear that we and our businesses are not changing fast enough.
Why the Hype?
We sometimes forget that the media (newspapers, magazines, TV) are an industry single-mindedly focused on getting our attention. Their tools of trade are the dramatic stories and captivating headlines that we click and read. Likewise, public speakers, trade shows, conventions, and symposiums all convince us to listen to them or to attend their event by playing up our anxiety – our fear that we are being left behind by change. Finally, start-ups and other new business ventures are promoting their solution to a problem by making the problem bigger and more inevitable. All this adds up to hype.
The Danger of Hype
The stories, the events, and the new businesses are all quite interesting. And some of them could, over time, lead to significant changes. But, only some and only over time. By paying attention to the hype, we increase our and our team’s anxiety and waste our company’s time and energy. We spend time attending events and thinking about new solutions to largely tangential problems. This leaves us with less time to focus on the issues core to our business success:
- Leading by example in building a great and ethical culture and brand for our company
- Treating our employees well
- Being customer centric and responsive to the needs of our key customers
- Controlling and continuously improving the key processes essential to our business
Virtually none of these core issues are addressed by those people promoting the hype. None of these core issues can be productized and sold to us to help the hype masters separate us from our money. Importantly, all of these and the other key items in our business are under our control as a leader.
Keep an Eye Open
I am not suggesting that we ignore the world and the changes occurring around us. We need to have a formal communication system where we continue to scan the horizon for new solutions, new business opportunities, and new competitive threats. And yes, we need to experiment on occasion. But, all this needs to be done moderately and in a systematic way, separating the reality from the hype and focusing on only those changes that are truly effecting our business. At most, it should occupy a leader 1 – 2 days a month and most of the team not at all.
We need to avoid the anxiety and wasted time and effort that comes from being up to date on all the hype – the amazing new product or process, the new way of managing, the earth-shattering change that is right around the corner. Instead, we need to focus on our business and being better today than we were yesterday at treating our employees well, satisfying our customers, having effective controls and simplified processes, and experimenting (on a small scale) with new sales, marketing and product offerings. One hundred years ago, Henry Ford said it well:
“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”
Doesn’t the argument here depend on the industry you’re working in? If I’m running a local taxi cab fleet or a retail store, I’ve been disrupted already.
Mike, good insight. Yes, the world is changing and has changed rapidly in many industries. That is why I recommend that we keep an eye open for changes, while learning to separate the hype from the changes that can impact our companies.