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GET IN THE GROOVE The Line with The Best Results

Taking a leap over old ideas and ushering in the new isn't always easy.  Tossing aside the tried and true for the unknown, no matter how promising, involves investment and risk. But if you want to keep pace with the pack or even outrun it, there are times when taking the leap is just what you need to do.  Imagine where you'd be if you headed a large corporation and fought computerization.  The prospect of personal computers used to be below 100 for the entire world.  Today, one office may have thousands of computers.  Furthermore, just because something was done in the past doesn't mean it would be right today…or that it was the best option yesterday.

 

In all industries, some beliefs must die with time to make room for more efficient ways of conducting business.  Not long ago, the term "longer is better" dominated the ski industry.  Longer skis, as much as six feet (200cm) in length, were considered the prime tool of the adept.  Today, top-notch skiers use "150s" (150cm) which are nearly a foot shorter!  Technology, tests, and science are responsible for the shift that blasted the belief that skis had to be straight and thin to be good.  Over time, people discovered that the 200cm of cut edge could be shaped into an hourglass form, achieving the same amount of cut edge but in a shorter distance.  The benefit:  shorter skis are easier to maneuver, siphon less wear and tear from the body, and make turning faster and safer.

 

The same happened on the tennis court.  Players used wood racquets with small faces until metal products with larger faces proved themselves.  It wasn't an instant love affair, but eventually tennis players came to accept and appreciate the increased power and ease that new developments and materials, such as fiberglass, brought to the sport.  In swimming, shaving seconds off race times with outfits of tiger-shark-like scales outpaces shaving bodies.

 

Recently the CEO of a billion-dollar firm stated that he wanted his firm to remain an industry leader.  He followed up by reacting to the prospect of a new way of doing things with, "What do you think…we all just crawled out of the ocean and stood up to get to this point?  We're all using this industry model, because it works."  Granted, a lot of things work and work well.  The industry model could work for a long, long time.  But there's no guarantee it will stay that way, and if you want to succeed down the road, you have to at least entertain the prospect that something new could be better or that it could spell survival one day.

 

Making room for new ideas doesn't mean you have to break down the Wall of China.  Small changes in beliefs, or ways of doing things, just have a way of creeping into everyday business.  Think of the life of a chocolate bar.  A host of manufacturing advances were made to get the product to market in the way it does today.  The packaging alone has undergone facelifts, from design changes to the types of paper and ink that are used.  Higher-speed printing equipment and processes saves pennies on packaging, adding to the bottom line.  The supply chain has radically been altered just in the life span of the product.

 

Fast-food drive-thrus now offer a display screen that provides a line-by-line description of a customer's order.  Customers see exactly what goes to the kitchen for their order.  If there's an error, the customer can now see it and notify the attendant at the time of the order, rather than at the window after the order has been packaged and paid for.  This saves time, prevents errors, keeps everyone happy, and makes the entire process flow smoothly.

 

Prior to taking to the road, tractor-trailers are inspected for safety.  A new technology-driven inspection system has been developed by Zonar Systems in Washington state.  The system is designed to prevent quality gaps left by the current manual system.  The gaps include poor inspections or no inspections at all.  The new technology is being accepted by the DOT…hopefully school buses will adopt the new method before too long.

 

So how do you look at what you do with a new eye:

 

  1. Become aware:  Ask yourself a series of three questions:
    1. Why do I do things the way that I do?  Look at how long systems have been in place.  Think about the increased value your firm would derive from doing things better or faster or cheaper.
    2. What would happen if I could increase efficiency or effectiveness by two?  Consider what manual tasks could be automated or technologically advanced.  Imagine processing a customer at a cash register twice as fast or sealing a floor in twice the speed.
    3. If an outsider visited our facility, would he see efficiency and high standards or a disaster waiting to happen?  Sure, you can clean up for the occasional visitor, but what is the norm?

  2. Bounce your findings off others:  There are a number of people whom you serve and who serve your firm, who can be of assistance.  If you have access to others who run the same kind of business but who may not be in direct competition (due to demographics, for example), find out what works for them or what's on the horizon.  Complementary industries are good resources, too.

  3. Act:  Leaders have a responsibility to act when they know better.  You might not find answers right away, but when you do, don't sit on them, do something about them.

 

Strange creatures we are…we work to achieve, and as soon as we get where we wanted to go, we want something else. That urge to explore, grow, and conquer fuels constant innovation, ideas, and evolution. Though leaving the comforts of a sure thing is tough for some people, it's a necessity for all of us at one time or another. Remember that change doesn't have to be drastic, but if you're constantly looking and thinking about new possibilities, you'll be able to seize the opportunities that new beliefs can bring.

 

© MMIII David and Lorrie Goldsmith

 

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