Anticipating Problems is on Vacation

This summer my friend took his family on a volunteer vacation on the fringes of downtown Los Angeles to work with a group that serves the youth of the local neighborhood.  Like any vacationing family, they quickly unpacked their bags in the apartment which would be their temporary residence.  Next, they headed to the local supermarket to stock up on supplies. 

Once inside, they found fantastic looking produce and rock-bottom prices.  Cherries were 99 cents a pound!  Apples for 79 cents!  They hadn’t stepped back in time but had stepped into a grocery store that sits in the backyard of the fruit and veggie capital of the United States. 

Off they went, acting like a contestant in a money machine with dollar bills swirling around, hurriedly throwing produce into their cart before someone started raising prices.  As they were unloading the watermelon at the checkout lane it hit them:

We don’t have a car                                                     

Our apartment is nearly a mile away


And it’s not on a bus route                                          

As you might imagine, the watermelon never made it to the apartment; nor did the 24-pack of bottled water.  They were on auto-pilot at the store, but failed to note their new reality.  And the same thing happens in our organizations.

We rely on the old way of doing things.  We become dependent on products that are becoming obsolete.  We don’t see that customer tastes are shifting so we keep filling our cart with products, systems and processes that will only weigh us down.  If this sounds familiar, here are three tips to avoid your own melon mistakes.

  1. Let Environment Drive Tactics.  Too often we rely on tactics that worked in a previous time, but don’t effectively address the current reality.  Ask yourself, “Do our current processes support our current situation?”  If not, consider what you would choose if you were making a fresh decision today.
  2. Pay Attention to Weak Signals.  There were dozens of people pushing small, personal carrying carts in that LA supermarket but our friends didn’t think about it until later.  The same is true for businesses.  Paying attention to weak signals in the market – like changing customer tastes, declining market share or technological advances can help prevent problems from occurring. 
  3. Seek Out Relevant Expertise.  Any local resident could have told us to shop lightly, but we relied on gut instinct.  The same can be said of senior leaders who have been rewarded for their successful intuition.  Research on intuition shows that it is only effective in relevant situations where the decision maker has experience.  If you’re in a new situation, seek the counsel of experts.  

We have been teaching critical thinking skills such as these for the past 35 years, and helping our clients adapt to changing conditions.  If you would like to learn some tools to help mitigate your own melon mistakes, give us a call at (800) 386-5611. We would love to help!










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