Running Red Lights in Your Business?
Holly G. Green
Running a red light in order to save a few precious seconds
is one of the dumbest, most irrational things people do. Yet we do
it all the time, in business and in real life.
The other day, while driving home from a long session with a
client, the light in front of me suddenly turned yellow. I was
tired and in a hurry, but caution dictated that I stop for the light
and wait my turn. The driver on my left apparently had different
ideas, because he gunned his engine and charged through the
intersection well after the light had turned red.
At first I thought, what was that guy thinking? And
then I realized that he wasn’t thinking, he was reacting. And
therein lies the problem. As human beings, we like to consider
ourselves rational creatures. But the faster the world moves, the
less rational we get. Lately, it seems that the world keeps moving
faster than ever. And the more it speeds up, the more we shut down
our critical thinking processes and simply react in the moment.
Obviously there are times when we need to react, such as in
life-threatening situations. But most of the time, reacting
instantly does not serve us well because it usually stems from
underlying assumptions and beliefs that have little to no basis in
reality. Running a red light is based on multiple incorrect
assumptions. The first, and most illogical, is that getting to our
destination a minute or two faster is more important than our own
personal safety. Not to mention the safety of the other drivers
Another belief or assumption (or what we like to call
thought bubbles) might be that if we stop for the light, the car
behind us will plow into our rear bumper. Or, the civil engineers
who designed the intersection and timed the light are incompetent
and should be disregarded. Or, “Everyone else does it, so why
shouldn’t I?” Or, “I won’t get caught, so it’s no big deal.”
The list of thought bubbles could go on and on. But when you
pause for just a moment to think about it, there is no good reason
for running a red light. We know it’s inconsiderate to other
drivers. We know it’s against the law. We know it’s dangerous.
Yet we rationalize away the danger and do it anyway.
The worst part is that the rationalization happens so quickly
we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We simply stop thinking and
react. And every time we do it, we train our brains to shortcut the
thinking process so that it becomes almost instinctual, similar to
our fight-or-flight reactions.
How do we run red lights in business? By doing the exact same
thing - shutting down our thinking processes and letting unfounded
beliefs and assumptions guide our decisions and actions.
Running a red light in business involves making key decisions
based on all the things we assume to be true but never take the time
to verify. It’s the way we treat customers without ever checking to
see if that’s how they want to be treated. It’s the way we think
about the competition without doing any real research. It’s all the
things about our businesses that we take for granted because we have
always known them to be true.
For example, “Our competition will never catch up to us.
We’re too good.” Or, “We’ll never be able to match our competitor’s
cost structure.” Or, “We don’t have to worry about global
competition; we’re a regional company.”
Running red lights with customers sounds like, “We can’t do
that. The market isn’t ready for it.” Or, “Our customers will
never accept a price increase.” Or, “We don’t have to innovate
because no one else can do what we do.” Or even, “Because that’s the
way we have always done it…”
Where’s the logic in that kind of thinking? The only
certainty in today’s markets is ongoing, often disruptive change.
Rather than simply reacting to that change, we need to pause (stop
at the red light), think (check our underlying thought bubbles while
waiting for the light to change) and then (when we have real data to
support our conclusions) put the pedal to the metal (and stay within
the speed limit of course). Constantly running red lights may seem
like we’re going faster. In reality, it means we’re an accident
waiting to happen and when it does, it slows us down considerably.
The next time you’re tempted to run a red light in your
business or in your car, take a moment to think about what’s really
important. Check your thought bubbles! The right decision could be
a lifesaver for you and your business.
Read other articles and learn more about
Holly G. Green.
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