Expand Your Business Horizons with
By Maurice Ramirez
you want to see new opportunities for your business and increase your
decision-making speed and accuracy, begin by looking outside your own
business—even outside your industry—at trends and patterns that
you can apply to your own organization. Ask yourself, “How do others
do what they do?” The fact is that you can learn from observing
others companies’ patterns of how to change, and in turn solve
problems, make decisions, and grow your business faster than ever
failure to recognize an impending problematic pattern can be just as
devastating to a Mom & Pop business as it is to a hospital or NASA
or to a CEO’s career. Enron had a pattern of corporate corruption
and failure of personal responsibility. MCI had a pattern of bad
investment and then later fraud to cover those bad investments. All of
these things were patterns which we can look back on in retrospect, as
the books are open for everybody, and from outside industries we can
say, “It was obvious this was happening.” And yet the people
inside the industry, the “experts,” were looking at the same
patterns and could not see them. They lacked perspective from the
outside, just as we, in our own industries, can fail to have the
perspective on ourselves that others may have of us.
how can you improve your pattern recognition skills to enhance your
business? Consider the following:
Look beyond your own niche.
You must be able to pull back your blinders to recognize those
patterns that tell you something has changed or is about to change.
Within your own company, you may have great pattern recognition and
the ability to anticipate what’s going to come next, but if you
can’t see outside your company’s bubble, you may be left in the
same situation that IBM was in 1978. They only looked at their own
company’s patterns and did not see the coming of the personal
computer. Over at Apple, though, Steve Jobs identified patterns beyond
the horizon, hired Bill Gates, and started a new company…and a
other industries ultimately serve a similar purpose to yours, then
even if they seem radically different than yours, their operating
patterns may still be applicable. For example, health care has in
recent years begun adopting the safety models used in the airline
industry. Like doctors and nurses, pilots and air traffic controllers
are among the few in their industry who have ultimate responsibility
for a large number of lives. Many more support people are responsible
for making certain that the pilots are able to do their jobs safely
and effectively: the mechanics, the flight attendants, and the gate
the medical industry identified that it had a problem with safety (too
many unfortunate situations were overlapping and people were dying as
a result), they looked outside their own industry, to those where the
stakes are very high and where a single error, if not caught, could
result in not one death but 500. They learned that in the airline
industry, everyone—from the lowliest mechanic or carpet sweeper, all
the way up to the captain—has the authority to say, “Stop that
plane!” if they have reason to believe a safety issue has arisen.
Importing this and other patterns gleaned from the airline industry
will be a long process for the medical industry but one that will
ultimately lead to greater safety and efficiency.
Trust patterns, not data.
If you’ve been wearing blinders for awhile, you may find it
difficult to trust your instincts, even when you have identified
patterns within your own business and beyond. Your natural tendency
will be to look for data that will back up the pattern you’re
seeing. If you do this, though, and the data doesn’t support the
trend, that doesn’t mean you were wrong in your initial
identification of the pattern. Data simply can’t predict the future;
it can’t tell you where your business is headed, only reinforce what
you already know about your business’ past. Data can tell you that
profits are down or have leveled off, but only pattern recognition can
give you a new perspective on your business and help you decide what
to do to reverse trends and solve problems.
Use your eyes, then analyze.
Albert Einstein said that the ultimate insanity is to continue to do
what you’re doing and expect a different result. Perhaps you’ve
identified a pattern that you want to adopt, but you don’t want to
make significant changes just to make changes, nor do you want to take
action with only guesswork to back you up.
you must have the ability to recognize what’s wrong. When you look
at your business’ financial picture, for example, what do you see?
If it’s not what you expect, what do you do? Supplement this
analysis with the extra patterns you’ve added to your repertoire in
your exploration of other businesses and industries. The perspective
you gain from having these extra patterns to reference will give you a
twofold gain: 1) With enough patterns, you’ll be able to see that
the financial picture isn’t right, and 2) you’ll have a sense of
what changes you can implement to make the situation better by
borrowing patterns from other industries and adapting them to your
Mimic, then make them your own.
When NASA experienced the space shuttle accidents, the first thing
executives did was to look back at where patterns failed. They
discovered that a culture of silence had evolved at NASA. So they went
outside of their industry and got experts in communications and
team-building to teach them new patterns that enabled them not just to
team-build, but also to teach them new patterns they could mimic. The
experts enabled NASA to learn what the pattern looks like when a team
is beginning to fail and to emulate new, more effective
problem-solving patterns. Now they can recognize when the teams begin
to fail and communication lines are crossed so the opportunity for
absolute disaster is less likely to occur.
you’re making an adopted pattern your own, don’t make a deliberate
effort to change it around or adapt it to your business. You’ll find
that if you fully internalize a pattern, as it becomes a part of your
behavior and thought process, then your brain will automatically take
any aspects of the pattern that are not particularly useful to you and
set them aside, so that the pattern, though adopted from elsewhere,
works for you. At that point, the pattern truly becomes yours; you
have broadened your perspective and added additional facets or
directions from which you can see still new vantage points.
Passing the patterns down. While
your company’s culture will determine whether one leader learns this
process or a group does, a group is ideal. You want any shift in
paradigm for the organization to be a unified shift. Therefore, all of
your core decision makers should learn new patterns simultaneously so
as not to create the appearance to those below them that the senior
executives are all headed off willy-nilly in some new, weird
direction. So, as you develop a culture of mimicry in your
organization, the rank and file will learn new patterns by simply
mimicking the behaviors of those who lead.
Pattern Recognition + Positive Actions =
Excellent Results. When you’ve
built up your storehouse of borrowed patterns and perfected the
processes of mimicry and internalization, you’ll see a myriad
positive results occur. Among other things, you’ll learn that you
are able to discern when something is not only different, but
good-different—a positive shift that benefits your business. When
that happens, resist any temptation to mess with it and instead ride
it out. Likewise, should you identify a negative pattern approaching,
you can take proactive steps to head it off at the pass. Either way,
your business will benefit from your new pattern recognition skill,
and your company’s bottom line will soar.
Read other articles and learn more about
Dr. Maurice Ramirez.
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