My Biggest Gift to You: A Fresh New Perspective
More and more of us are finding out that the only way to success is to do what's right. Make excellent products. Offer great services. Care about your customers' needs. Don't just sell what you've got. Be a solution to your customers.
Great! How do we do that?
I feel the right answer is to innovate. All the time!
Innovation doesn't mean just hi-tech stuff. It means, new approaches and new solutions which can only come from fresh new perspectives. I believe a big part of the equation in having a fresh new perspective in any organization is to have reliable outside consultants. Why? We'll get to that in a minute. Let's first look at a couple of examples where it must have been really hard for these companies to stand out, but they did.
There are industries in which creating a differentiating factor for an organization can be difficult. Fairly standardized products or services among competing companies can reduce their differentiating factor down to slashing prices to be more appealing to their customers. A company can do that for so long before it is no longer profitable.
Is profitability important? I think it's the one and only insurance policy any company can offer its clients and customers. Even if a company makes great products and offers wonderful services, if it's out of business, how would that benefit its customers? It's a lose-lose scenario. There are so many examples of this in business history. If you mentioned one of these companies' names or their products, you would see a smile on their customers' faces. I'm sure you may even have a few of your own favorites. But where are they now? Gone!
I believe the shortest path to profitability is innovation. That's how Apple went from being 90 days away from complete collapse to becoming the world's most valuable company. If you think about "smart phones" prior to Apple's iPhone, they were all pretty similar products. A couple of very successful companies' idea of innovation was to make smart phones act and feel more like computers by incorporating user interface elements from full blown PCs such as menus, trackballs and styluses. Apple simply said, "Let's bring fresh new perspective to this". The result was not just the iPhone but a whole slew of smart phones that took consumers' mobile experience to a whole new level. And now, they've all started to look pretty similar again. Same touch interface. Similar app stores. Even the same inertial scroll that Steve Jobs once so proudly introduced as an Apple innovation.
Take another example from a different industry: Turkish Airlines (THY). Once a tiny airliner with a terrible track record of being late and having aging and poorly maintained aircraft. Now, Turkish Airlines is considered one of the best airlines in the world. According to WorldAirlineAwards.com, THY was ranked #12 in 2017 and #7 in 2016. I've recently spoken to a few people who flew this airline and what I heard from them about Turkish Airlines' service was remarkable.
How do you even differentiate yourself as an airliner? Take your passengers from point A to point B without losing their luggage and falling out of the sky! I guess that would be the old way looking at things. I heard that Turkish Airlines even has a "chef" on board in long distance flights whose job it is to make sure the food and service during the flight is restaurant quality. That's fresh new perspective!
Why An Outside Consultant?
For some reason, many a times, humans doing the same thing and seeing the same familiar faces day in and day out, start to think similarly too. Wait, it gets worse. They also start to protect both their own and their peers' interests.
I was once in charge of group of project managers who had a tough job in juggling many projects and keeping their customers happy. This company was and still is located on the East coast of the United States. There was one project manager who would come in very early in the morning and call all her clients -- including the ones on the West coast -- before it was even 7:30 AM Eastern Time. That means, she was calling her clients at 4:30 AM Pacific Time. She would then spend the rest of the day, pretending to work. For some reason, which is still unknown to me, no one wanted to bring her behavior to my attention. Her peers resented her for this unprofessional behavior but not one of them did anything to bring it to an end, including having a friendly conversation with her.
Unfortunately, this type of "don't rock the boat" attitude is all too common in many organizations. I can understand and even respect people not wanting to turn in their peers or do anything unprofessional themselves but how does empowering such behavior help anyone, let alone the company!
I've also witnessed cases where so many people in upper management had similar views of their own products, customers, even their own strategies yet no one wanted to see that the organization had flat-lined quite some time ago.
This is where a qualified consultant is very important. Someone who has not drunk the kool aid or suffer from job insecurity or worry about losing their health insurance or 401K plan.
Every organization must renew itself constantly or risk becoming obsolete. Renewing an organization requires many things but most importantly, it requires a fresh new perspective. An outside consultant is not the only way but probably the surest and fastest way to get it. When you're talking to a consultant, don't just focus on their professional knowledge or past experience. Their biggest gift to you would be fresh new perspective. Make sure the consultant you're talking to has the disposition to tell you as he/she sees it and offers new ways of looking at things.