Can ‘Business As Usual’ Be Loaded With Risk?

Routine and experience could be the worst enemy for growth, writes management expert Debbie Nicol.

While descending from the skies, ready for touchdown in Bucharest for an end-of-summer brief break, I was amazed that I recognised that familiar glow in the air and on the ground. I had also observed it while flying into Georgia during an earlier trip. The effect of the sun’s rays look different in Europe yet I’m not really sure why. Is it that the sky contains less sand compared to our familiar Middle East sky, or that its reflection from green vegetation differs from that of sand dunes, or could it be that I’m in a different state of mind?

This then led me to wonder how is it that some people in corporations can envisage different outcomes when viewing the same everyday reality whereas others simply cannot.

· What can the benefits be of viewing business through a new lens?
· How can this skill be perfected?

The risk of having clouded eyes is missed opportunity. The clouds of familiarity limit imagination, reduce curiosity and stop inquiring minds from opening into new possibility. Benefits of viewing the business landscape through a new lens are endless, identifying efficiencies we’ve never seen, opening ourselves to new ideas and offering new questions to consider. New destinations are on offer with new paths to travel.

I’ve discovered a variety of methodologies I’d like to share, that will help identify alternatives, marvelling at things differently and keeping curiosity levels acutely attuned:

1. Look out and bring in

Can we truly be open to the new when we are surrounded by the old? Familiarity breeds contempt and even a lack of hope. When that happens, senses shut down and cease performing.

Looking for improved processes, product diversification or new methodologies? Why not venture out into one of two scenarios:

a. A completely unknown environment; after all, we don’t know what we don’t know and when embracing the unknown, who knows what we may be in for? When absolutely no expectations exist, the clouds are lifted allowing a new reality to creep in. It might be a new transportation method that is introduced, an alternative way to purchase a ticket or simply the response of people to an external influence such as a change in weather. Simple situations in a complex world can show us so much, and experiencing these in unfamiliar environments offers even greater potential for productive change.

b. A known yet unchanging environment; old habits die hard and holding a meeting in the same way for many years or even entering a venue each day at the same time keeps us on automatic pilot. Why not ramp things up a bit by changing the format, venue and timing of the meeting or even dare to enter the establishment through a completely different doorway? Be prepared for the unexpected.

2. Seek opportunities to delve deeper

The word ‘why’ is one of the most powerful interjections, taking conversations to a level often left unexplored. Without this, reasons are ‘givens’ and may not highlight how they could have served previously. Additionally, with the ‘why’ question often exposing the reason to be ‘because it’s the policy’, it all too often spotlights the futility of some standards of operation.

3. Take an empty mind and allow nature to fill it up!

There’s no better place than nature to switch off the mind and gain new perspectives. The designs in the trees, the mix of the elements, the flow of the streams, the pecking order of nature’s residents all can provide perspective – should we be open to it.

Many examples of innovation exist, none more famous than the influence of nature on the creation of the trademarked Velcro product. Would we ever have seen the benefit of burrs sticking to socks without nature infiltrating an open and empty mind?

Can ‘business as usual’ limit results and be loaded with risk? Yes – absolutely – and for senior business stakeholders this comes loaded with dire consequences. The number one reason quoted by ‘Leadership Excellence’ is a lack of desire and ability to seek, recognise or manage change. I’ve seen best business results occur when the aperture is opened to the widest possible angle and perspective is allowed to flow. Can experience be our worst enemy?

Debbie Nicol, the MD of Dubai-based ‘business en motion’ specialises in leading corporate change initiatives, strategies and organisational development across the GCC.

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