Is it time for radical thinking?
In business we tend to make decisions based on experience, tested methods and empirical knowledge. Empirical knowledge comes from observation only. Even though we may not know exactly what causes a reaction to a given event, we have observed it so many times that we have become used to a given situation repeating itself. As a result, we may have developed tested methods to deal with that situation and we rely on our experience to determine what the outcome is likely going to be.
However, there are situations where these three factors may no longer provide a satisfactory outcome. This could be due to more and more people coming into the market with the same ideas and methods. Gradually your customers may start looking at your business as another stereotype. Nothing wrong of course with the stereotype if it provides a decent living and it continues to guarantee steady growth. In the long run though your model may no longer work and you may need a new challenge to turbo-charge your business.
This is when radical thinking may help.
Is it time for radical thinking? If so, here are three rules to help.
1. Do the opposite of what everybody does
There are many examples of entrepreneurs who have challenged the accepted method of doing things and changed it to their advantage. An example of this would be that of Ryanair. Take for example their policy of not having a seat allocation. When it was first introduced it was frowned upon and yet it has meant a much faster turnaround for the company thus increasing productivity. How are seats sold? Very much like bus seats, quickly in and out of the plane. So the first advantage for the customer is that it speeds up the time it takes to board the plane. However, there is a more subtle advantage. The single traveller can take it easy. When boarding the plane he or she can actually choose who to seat next to. I personally love that. There are in fact many more innovations that Ryanair have introduced which make both business travel and travel for pleasure so much cheaper to the advantage of the company, which continues to make substantial profits in a loss-making industry.
So the lesson is that you need to understand your business and your ideal customer. For example as an accountancy firm I love doing business with construction companies, contractors and sub-contractors. Why? Because I feel I am one of them, a down to earth accountant. Builders are disorganised, they work on cash and they do not have a lot of time for accountants. For these reasons some accountancy firms actually tend to avoid builders altogether. I do the opposite, I have decided that builders are my perfect customers and so I have developed procedures that are actually designed to make it easy for them, I organise their work, I deal with cash receipts, I prepare their CIS (Construction Industry Scheme) Returns, I verify sub-contractors with HMRC, I do all things that normally some accountants don’t like doing. I specialise in this work and industry and this generates a flow of individuals and referrals.
So ask yourself, could doing the opposite of what everybody does increase the business opportunity?
2. Be creative
This unfortunately cannot be taught. However, you likely have heard the expression about “thinking outside the box”. Thinking outside the box is not that difficult actually. It is a Walt Disney puzzle. It was borne by asking whether it is possible to join the 9 points in a square matrix by drawing 4 lines (or even 3 lines) without lifting your pen from the paper. The answer is yes, but in order to do it you need to go outside the margins like this:
In business, therefore, like in life, you may need to go outside your comfort zone.
Radical thinking may move you to look at radical options, for example “could I set up a business abroad where there is a more suitable market for my business?” However, the principle can be applied in other areas closer at home.
For example you may not feel confident about talking to people on the phone. Yet you may be absolutely the best person to do it. Why, because you know your products and services well and if you try to talk to people on the phone you may gain the necessary experience and confidence needed to teach others. So rather than avoiding making calls try to do them, you may be surprised about the amazing resources you have within yourself.
3. Look at the root of the matter
Take for example the problem of debt. It has plunged individuals and even nations into not just a recession, but into depression. Why? Because people and nations can’t afford to repay the debt. Traditional thinking would solve the problem by rescheduling the debt, but some radical thinkers think that the root of the problem in our modern society is the debt itself and so they advocate abolishing the debt altogether and start from zero. Although this may suggest that there are going to be winners and loser, actually in my view, it provides the perfect answer to the problem of debt.
Applying the lesson to business, you need to know what you want for your business. When Michael O’Leary was commissioned to grow Ryanair he started from very humble beginnings. His goals at that time seemed to be unrealistic, but they clearly where within reach. Ryanair today is a large and profitable airline. So radical thinking may only apply if you need radical changes to your business, it may not be right for everyone. Ask yourself, how big do I want my business to be? How can I remove those obstacles which prevent my business from grow at a faster rate? Do I want to work in my business, or would I rather let others run it for me?
Looking at the root of the matter is easier said than done. It requires an honest appraisal of what you do and what you want. Are you prepared to pay the cost should your radical thinking work?
Today’s Micro Action
Consider whether you can use radical thinking to grow your business in 2013. Can you think outside of the box, do something that no one else is doing that will set you apart from your competition? Spend some time thinking about it and if you decide radical thinking is right for you, plan some time to implement some changes.