Business Growth is Often Stalled by Doing What We Have Always Done

Men pushing arrow upWe spend our lives focusing on the what—the practices, and policies that we have painstakingly put in place. We do what we do because we are supposed to do it. Our parents raised us to, or our teachers taught us to, or our leaders rewarded us when we did. The danger is shared by Payal Kadakia, Founder and chairman of ClassPass, “Skills can become obsolete, products can be copied, we can do everything right and the market can change on a whim.” Don’t we know that to be true today?!

Blind commitment to the what, without knowing the why behind it, limits the ability to challenge it and often perpetuates it past its usefulness. Payal Kadakia went on to say, “We can develop muscles, in the form of sustainable behaviors, that enable us to quickly recognize and adapt to change.”

Reports and operations: What is their management value?

For many of us, as leaders, we run our business through the management of two things: financial reports and operations. We are taught in business school these are important and it has been rewarded in our careers as we mastered them. Yet, neither of these generate growth; neither brings an opportunity to re-ignite a business but at best generate some incremental improvement. Studying these things does not question the fundamental foundation of a business which may have made sense a few decades ago but is being challenged by changing value systems, new technology, and the shifting of power into the hands of data users.

How do you manage your time? Are you looking specifically & externally at market change, the relevant why, and adapting to it, or are you managing the whats, the practices born of past whys no longer as applicable? Recently, a study revealed that focusing on growth initiatives that invariably challenge the status quo, yields much more return that focusing on fine tuning the whats and creating marginal improvement. In fact, a 1% improvement in growth returns 5x as much as a 1% improvement in margin.

Understand the “why” to make better choices.

By understanding the why behind something, we can assess whether that rationale is still valid, useful, needed. When the why is understood, it is easier to question the present reality—that same threat no longer exists and more options should present themselves.

What practices do we maintain because we believe them to be right even though we don’t know the why behind it? Pick your five biggest company challenges and ask yourself “why” it is done a certain way, and is that commitment a limitation that needs to remain? Is it your location? Your technology? Your talent pool? As the world around us changes quickly we must adapt to take advantage of the many possibilities in front of us and not just tether ourselves to the past.

What does drive growth?

Transformational growth comes not from probabilities which are typically extensions of the past, a commitment to continue the legacy that has been the way of our forefathers and leaders, but from possibilities which suggest alternatives, sometimes disruptive ones that require a leap of faith or some discomfort in their pursuit. When will you ever have such a burning platform to question, challenge and reboot your organization? Spend time gathering new perspectives about opportunities beyond the usual channels. Read about fast growth businesses, monitor changing trends that go beyond industry boundaries, put yourself in places where you can have creative conversations with other leaders and peers such as conferences and peer groups, and stretch your employees’ thinking by asking, “If we didn’t have product y, but were trying to meet the underlying need for it, what could we offer instead?” or “If we couldn’t do something the way we always have, what would be our alternative?” By loosening dependence on expected and traditional solutions, you may find there are better, easier, more efficient or more high demand ways to meet ever-changing market needs.