We Need Some Inefficiency!

How did the taxi industry miss Uber?
How did iTunes miss Spotify?
How did McDonald’s miss Millennial taste buds?
How come so many Boomers aren’t ready for retirement?

The glib answer is that they focused on “today” and ignored “tomorrow.” They spent too much time and energy dealing with Reaction Zone challenges. Reaction Zone? Read on. 

In my critical and strategic thinking workshops we spend time discussing three zones that define our mental radar screens: the Reaction Zone, the Adaptation Zone, and the Anticipation Zone.  We also discuss the value of inefficiency. 

The Reaction Zone encompasses all of the problems and challenges associated with running life in the here and now. Look at your calendar and you see that you are reacting to others’ needs and wants -- client meetings, vendor problems, workforce issues, etc. 

Adaptation Zone thinking addresses emerging and established trends. You have time to respond to them, but they will play out whether you act or not. iTunes is suffering from the shift in renting music versus buying music. No need to spend 99 cents for a single song when you can subscribe to Spotify and get as much as you want.

Anticipation Zone thinking recognizes isolated events on the horizon and attempts to connect these seemingly disparate dots. For example, connect these dots and think about the future of geriatric medicine: 23andMe (inexpensive genetic testing), Apple Watch, aging Boomers, driverless automobiles, personal GPS, and smaller families. My kids may watch over me, but not in the way I envision it today.

And now comes the challenge. Adaptation Zone and Anticipation Zone thinking require time to actually think. But, we have spent the last twenty years trying to make our companies “lean and mean.” Unfortunately, some have become lean and anorexic. 

Sorry to say it, but thinking doesn’t look like work and we want our bosses to see us working. So we don’t think enough about the future even though we will spend the rest of our lives there. 

I’m all in favor of a bit of “inefficiency” so that people can take the time to think. 


Moving Fast Enough?


Sometimes we keep up with the pace of change and sometimes we don’t. Consider the following:

  • Best Buy moved too slowly in their response to on-line (Amazon) retailing and they are struggling for retail relevancy.
  • Elon Musk is roaring ahead of established battery manufacturers. Too far ahead?
  • I have friends who are prepared for retirement and others who seem surprised that they are getting old.  How can we be “surprised” by aging?
  • Should a driverless car be allowed to kill its occupants to save others? (More about that below.) 

As the saying goes, “the only constant is change.” And the question we have to answer is “What’s my responsibility?”

I contend that you have four responsibilities, whether you are thinking about change affecting your company, your team, your family or your personal life. You are responsible for:

  1. Sensing the signals of tomorrow.
  2. Making sense of these signals.
  3. Deciding on a course of action.
  4. Acting on your decisions.

And these four responsibilities form a cycle, the Sense-Response Cycle. Run the cycle too slowly and you risk becoming irrelevant. Run it too fast and you may waste resources on something that will never become reality. But the key point is to remember that these four responsibilities form a CYCLE. You and your company may excel in one or two of the four responsibilities, but you have to be “good enough” in all four in order to maintain the needed cycle-speed. You can’t pick and choose. 

Coming Soon!

As mentioned before, Ken Kubat and I are developing a tailored workshop for interested clients addressing both the art and science of decision making. We will help business leaders deal with questions such as:

·         Is “Big Data” a fad or an inflection point in the way business will be conducted? 

·         Will customer expectations and requirements change in the age of digital marketing?

·         How can we cost-effectively explore and assess new opportunities and capabilities?

·         What do data science and analytics capabilities allow us to do that we couldn’t do before?

·         How are demands for intuition and human judgement impacted by new capabilities?

More to come! Let me know if you are interested in piloting this new offering at your organization.