I was once attending a training program on negotiation. The instructor had placed a small mirror on each desk at the start of the program. He began by asking everyone to look at the person on the left, then the one on the right and then into the mirror. He then made a great statement. He said “two out of the three people you just looked at will not even make mediocre negotiators, not just after this program but through their entire lives.” That was a great wake-up call. Isn’t that statement true for most things in life.
I adapted the statement for use in one of my own programs once. Only this time I used it as three out three will never make a ‘great’ leader. That program though was not on leadership, it was on innovation.
Just play with me a little bit. Do this simple thing. Look around you. Look at any three people. It is guaranteed that at least two of the three you looked at will not do much over the next five years. They will be in the same position and the same chair and doing the same job, whether in your company or another one alike. It is also guaranteed that at least two of these three have been doing this for the last five years as well.
Doesn’t that scare you? After all if any one of those three read this, they would be looking at YOU!!
A promotion here and there, a carrot to keep you seated, that’s all!! You fell for it – you settled for mediocrity – my guess is you wanted to………
The question is why is it so? Why is it so? Why is it so?
WHY IS IT SO?
Why are we so OK with it?
There is no single answer, however, as a start I will answer this through this article and through many more over the next few weeks. Look out.
The first answer is that organizations, at large, are designed to create this. Then they spend their entire lifetime and executive time and meeting time and strategy time in preservation.
Somewhere in your office and probably close to you – is your CEO. Somewhere around him is a CFO. Then lurking around is HR Head and Sales Head and may be a couple more heads of departments. There have to be, they have been in the company too long!!
Every now and then they all go into a boardroom. Meet and discuss issues. Debate decisions. Come up with a common answer in the name of collective decision making and Synergy. The group is a fair mix of representation from all departments. So its balanced. This balanced group comes up with decisions that impact your entire life over a period of time and result in you being in the situation I described above!
That’s brings me to my first point – the first answer to Why IS It SO?
Your biggest enemy to think, to innovate your life, individually or as a corporation, IS BALANCE.
If you balance things, then you imbalance thinking.
Think about it.
Lets take an example here – lot of you in any organization would be talking about numbers, growth, sales – now tell me what is better – a great sales person who has excellent relationship skills and very satisfied existing customers but no innovation to find new ones – or a salesperson with lousy relationship skills and so dissatisfied customers but extremely innovative to keep adding new ones – What’s better. It is not possible to have both in one person (Very very rare, I’ll prove it later) – so what’s the answer. You will probably, actually most definitely say, “balance”…
What is better – an organization who keeps the customer absolutely comforted and unconfused – where the customer Finds the products of use and of a certain predictability. Knows he can count on you for that particular requirement at any time. Or a company that is so innovative that it keeps a customer completely confused with new products, changing models, upgradations – what is better? Again your answer will be “balance”
You see for at least seven generations – your father to grandfather to his great grand father – we have been taught balance. Balance is the enemy of progress and innovation. If you balanced it, you killed it, some part of it for sure.
I’ll just get to how it ‘seats you down’ in your life but first a small thing on balance – my view on the two situations above.
In the company that I ran and very successfully – we never saw a single day of negative cash flow or losses and never had to borrow a single penny – and in 2008, apparently the time of doom – we were billing the highest ‘per day fee’ in the country – In this company we never cared for confusing customer. So be it. Those of you who are customers, will know, you heard of all sorts of programs etc and might have been confused on what really is our core competence – you see if we balanced it with careful communication and stuck to core things – we would have never developed the great programs that we did – and had the success we have. To take it a step further, we never balanced how we conducted programs. It had to be extreme!!
As regards salespeople – my preference was always the innovator. Even if he or she sucked at relationship building. If we could create products that were the best – if we could deliver it better than anyone else – the customer will be happy – confused happy but happy.
There is balance all around you – take a look – you got married and decided you need a secured job for balancing life – you got a job and decided you need to settle down in life – either ways, whatever meant to you more, you destroyed excellence in that area by balancing it. I was reading the Pete Sampras’s book yesterday. He says he never balanced anything. From age 7 to age 31, only tennis – lived alone, sacrificed family for distraction, no serious relationship, nothing else at all – you can call it foolish – it also is the greatest level of excellence achieved. At age 32 he married – he realized that tennis is coming between achieving excellence there. On a night, still at the peak, winning a US Open, he quit.
I am not saying you can only do one thing at a time – that’s not innovation – you do 140 for all I care – though don’t balance them.
If you want to be a Sales Head, HR Head, Whatever Head, or CEO or CFO, then go be – don’t accept balancing by becoming a part of some non-sense committee or board or additional responsibility. Don’t balance it with creating further happiness at home or taking the family for a vacation or buying a new car to prove you are doing well or by gaining some adulation from a couple of subordinates or by receiving a call from a consultant who is massaging your ego with enlightenment in your market value or by seeing your name in a newspaper or by whatever whatever whatever (do all of this if you want it but NOT TO balance non-achievement). The moment you balance it or rationalize it or release it through some mechanism – you no longer pursue excellence (for yourself) – you gave up on what Pete Sampras didn’t. Yes there is a price to pay. So what, pay it.
My very accurate guess is that this article will have no impact on you and you will continue to balance things – you are so deep into it – so blinded into it – that you’ll miss the picture. BUT be aware of this – you are where you are because you made peace with it – so next time you see some 10 year younger person – taking a leap ahead and endangering your existence – Don’t Crib – just do what you do best – Balance!!!
It’s not just you. It’s our organizations. I wrote that they are designed for this. Obviously if most of the individuals are busy balancing, then collectively what will they create – a balanced organization – a joke!! It doesn’t work – 75% of Fortune 500 companies – are not in the list after 20 years. 84% of companies who balance things and rationalize markets by mergers and acquisitions move out of the list in less than 10 years. That’s how quickly it all fails. The fall is inevitable. It’s not just a decision making error. It’s a failure to think.
I am no fan of ‘small is beautiful’ but am convinced beyond doubt that ‘enormous is ugly’. Not to say that you don’t create large organizations but to say that you break them up for agility, or else, collapse. Large organizations creates centralization – they create committees and subcommittees and boards and bodies to make essential decisions – in the process unknowingly (and though they think the opposite) they have centralized almost everything with someone or the other – and killed innovation and creativity at even mid-levels. Therefore you will often find in these large companies – Ford. GM, IBM or say even our government organizations – loyal employees been there for years and you will find the innovative, sparky and creative smart people that they are constantly seeking – but these youthful people will keep leaving – they are frustrated by lack of expression and innovation and creativity – they are sick of lack of speed – However. Sadly, they too will eventually strike a balance!!
There are very few large organizations who stand the test of time. They eventually design themselves to failure. By that logic any merger to create a larger and more synergetic organization WILL FAIL. Any attempt to balance, individual or organization, will eventually defeat the purpose.
I was reading an interview yesterday of the Chairman of Glodman Sachs. He was asked to name one, just one, merger that he thinks has been successful in our entire corporate history. His reply was that nothing spectacular comes to mind. Can you imagine this is coming from a guy who makes his life on mergers – he gets 5% on merging and another 5% when it doesn’t work for demerging.
See around – Jet Airways buys Sahara to capture market share – defeated. King Fisher buys Air Deccan to consolidate the industry – borrowing money for survival. Indian Airlines-Air India – lets not even go there. TATA buying Corus and Jaguar and whatever – If they merge it to be one company – it’s over – guaranteed. Almost all of Google’s acquisitions – Orkut or anything – is all dead. Bharti merging with MTN to create one single largest company – is the beginning of a collapse. I bet you we’ll see it within 20 years of it. 20 years in business world is not overnight, neither is it eternity.
We constantly in our boardrooms talk about entrepreneurial spirit!!! That’s just another name for innovation (be good enough to think on your feet and keep moving).. BUT by creating centralizations of decision making and committees and boards in large organizations or by creating centralization of thought processes in YOUR head (of being in control of ten things and balancing them all) – We Kill Innovation or entrepreneurial spirit. We kill our own progress. We kill our own achievement. We kill excellence. By excellence I only mean the level to which you could have succeeded. As I said this article is unlikely to have an impact on you. You will be doing your next balancing act within minutes from now. You are so used it. You will be killing yet another time. I don’t know what but I know one thing – that is that the seat you are sitting on will be yours for quite a while. It’s nice, safe, comfortable and secured. It’s well balanced!!