Chapter 1 - Running on Empty

Ever had one of those days? Or, maybe you've had a more "difficult" year than usual? Tired of throwing money at problems and getting only mixed results? Me too.

Chapter 1 - Running on Empty

-- as one of my neuroscience professors likes to say, The closer you look at the brain, the less it seems like there's anybody home. ” -- overheard in a medical school lab

-- I gave him an unlimited budget and he exceeded it – Edward Bennett Williams

Ever had one of those days? Or, maybe you've had a more "difficult" year than usual? Tired of throwing money at problems and getting only mixed results?

Me too.

So, can we agree? There is more information available on more subjects than at any time in history and yet most of us are already on overload.

And even if you manage to keep up (try as you might) with your own field you begin to find that the quality of the information is sometimes a little suspect too.

Some of it's good, some is mediocre, and a lot of it is, well, misinformation is the kindest term I can think of at the moment. That's the way it's always been.

And I've got bad news; it's going to get much worse.

Fifty thousand books are published in the Unites States each year. That doesn't include more than 400 thousand journals and technical articles around the world either.

That's not all. In fact, that's just the information available in print; not in electronic formats like ezines, on-line journals, blogs, websites, email or discussion groups.

According to most industry analysts, the total information available to any one individual at any one time will grow more than one hundred thousand times by the year 2020. That's not a typo. One hundred thousand times by 2020.

What are we going to do then? How will we make choices?

The same way we've always done. We will distort, generalize, and delete. That's a fancy way of saying that most of us will choose to simplify. Some of us will even allow others to choose (think) for us.

Hmmm. Don't we do that now?

Yep. Well, maybe.

OK, so we've got to sort through all this stuff somehow, right? It's just that the "how" and "why" still confuse me.

Smart people are busy proving that the world is really much more complicated than anyone ever thought possible. They are convinced that our situation and circumstances are always changing. Solutions that once worked don't any longer.

And it's very possible that we have only ourselves to blame because each time we make a strategic move we change the business landscape - similar to walking on a trampoline. The heavier the step, the more the surface is impacted.

Often we find ourselves racing to find a solution for the issue of the moment, only to find out that we're in this situation because of our solution to yesterday's problem.

The truth is that we will continue to struggle with enduring problems because the world is such a complex place.

At the same time, equally smart folks are trying to convince us that the only way we can actually make any real progress is to simplify. They want us to clear our heads and focus on the obvious.

The "don't worry, be happy" school keeps assuring us that everything will be all right if we just keep it simple -- or at least keep pretending that it is.

What was it Peter Drucker said so long ago?

"Urgent things are rarely important. And important things are rarely urgent."

I guess I should have paid more attention to that part.

It seems that every business problem (or opportunity - depending on how you look at it) has people offering solutions that range from the inconceivably complex to the sublimely simple.

What about providing good client service? Nobody could argue about that, could they?

Funny you should ask.

  • Tom Peters says that you should endeavor to "wow" your customers and give them more than they ever expected (in a positive way, of course).
  • Jeffrey Gitomer favors customer loyalty over mere customer satisfaction.
  • Steven Covey wants every transaction to be a win-win.
  • And Don Peppers and Martha Rogers think that only through the personalization of services or products will the company of the future continue to succeed.

Are they all saying the same thing here? You think?

Originally posted on Capital Thinking October 25, 2011