What do you know? Really…

When we are born we are the proverbial blank slate. Then our parents, our teachers, our peers and the media start delivering information to us. Where there was no information there now is. And now all new information is judged in light of the information we already have.

In the time of Copernicus and Galileo the world was flat and the Earth was at the center of the Universe; that was the truth. Today we know differently, (until we don’t).

So what does this have to do with the world of business? We learn a lot in our first few jobs. We learn how to get along, we learn how to do our job and we learn what business is all about. The challenge can come when what we learned no longer works.

I used to work for an organization that was acquired by another and which continued to acquire companies. I think we acquired twenty overall. That means twenty different cultures, processes, policies, etc.  The division I was with had what I felt was a pretty good culture. We wanted to be better, we continued to seek improvements, we worked hard to meet our clients expectations and we bought into the values of mutual respect and open honest and clear communication. One by-product of this was, we were the most profitable division in the organization.

Then Tom took over (Not his real name). Tom came from a different acquired company; one that operated at a level of low trust and literal abuse. He was taking over an organization that had relatively high trust. But he couldn’t see it. He knew from the knowledge he had acquired that organizations were ALL low trust. He had to transform the organization into the one he knew.

The result; that division has lost a large number of customers, most of the good talent has moved onto other employers and he is now in charge of a low trust organization.

Things change and if we as leaders are not self aware and open to seeing what is, we can often miss opportunities to leverage what is. Why because we “know” the way the world works. We’ve all seen so many examples it’s hard to count:

–    People won’t want to fly on a low cost airline without a reserved seat.
–    What can you say in 140 characters in a Tweet and who cares?
–    Coupons online?
–    Who wants to share everything on a Social Network?

Let me challenge you to ask yourself:

–    What do I think that I know that may not be true?
–    What would happen if I did not know that what could I learn about the situation?

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything — George Bernard Shaw

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