To be clear, I am generally opposed to pioneering.
My “oft-used chestnut” about pioneering is: pioneers return home full of arrows. I am greatly in favor of ‘creative borrowing’—the transfer of the proven from one place to an entirely different place, where it is as revolutionary as it may have been common in the place where I found it.
However, often times I find business owners self-sabotage by adhering to commonplace mindsets. This comes from insisting on only drawing from or receiving inspiration from peer-examples in your exact same line of work.
It confines you in a small prison of your own making, virtually prohibiting any particular breakthroughs, or a deeper understanding of universal, moveable, translatable principles that explain success, mediocrity or failure, prominence or oblivion in all fields.
I do all I can to push people past such self-imprisonment. I demand my clients, students, readers look outside their particular business or profession.
Any fool can find reasons something found, observed or shown to him does not apply and can’t be used. This is a way of escaping difficult thinking and avoiding work. It’s also an excellent way of avoiding wealth. Anyone can do this, and most do.
The cliché “think outside the box” came about because most business owners do, in fact, lock themselves into a very small, rigidly constructed box, and are loathe considering anything that might drag them out of the security of their precious, treasured little box.
This, incidentally, is how once mighty industry leaders lose their grip, slip down the mountain and sometimes disappear altogether.
For example, you may have witnessed the decline of Howard Johnson Hotels. Or think about restaurants in your area that, once popular, are now closed. In sports, harness racing—at one time more popular in America than Major League Baseball—is now a shadow of its former self and virtually unknown to many citizens.
This is also what prevents the small from getting big.
Everybody is guilty of it at times, to a degree. Everybody. I doubt it’s completely preventable or avoidable.
The trick is to not become consistently guilty of it.
And, if you want breakthroughs and quantum leaps, you will need to do some uncomfortable things. Among them these three:
Be an explorer. Venture outside of the norms of your industry and away from your territory, to distant and foreign places, to find and bring back strange ideas, and then translate them to work in your business. You’ll see examples of this in No B.S. Direct Marketing for Non-Direct Marketing Businesses. For instance, Chet Rowland, owner and president of Chet’s Pest Control, began applying direct marketing strategies he found in the GKIC No B.S. Marketing Letter that nobody in pest control was using. He went from struggling to the top 1% in his industry.
Be a bomb-thrower. Do something to completely shake things up so you can start anew. (Tweet this!)A few years ago, founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers, Jim McCann described one of his roles in his company was to be a “bomb-thrower.” He said he needed to be a disruptive force willing to blow things up and start over in order to make things better. When he started working in the floral industry, nobody had, as he puts it, “McDonald-ized” the flower business. Nobody had grown a big company in the flower industry. McCann was the one to shake things up. He was one of the first retailers to use a 24/7 toll-free number and the internet for direct sales to consumers. He was one of the first to partner with AOL. He put systems in place so that customers could expect the same great experience whether over the phone, online or in a local shop. And he grew from one location to over 125 (and growing) locations today.
Be daring. Not quite reckless, but daring. Little comes from playing it safe all the time. Big comes from risk. If not financial, then risk of reputation, image, respect, or ego. Risk of embarrassment, criticism or confrontation.
Target was just another discount retailer competing with Wal-Mart and K-Mart before they took the risk of positioning themselves as a retailer above these competitors. Teaming up with big-name designers to offer affordable versions of their designer merchandise was daring and paid off.
The smaller the circumference of the circle you draw around yourself and your business, the more willing you are to pay attention only to things within that circle while refusing to consider anything outside of it…the less there is to explore, the less material there is to make bombs with, and the more cautious and timid you will be.
More often than not, the greatest profits have come from adaptations and adaptive uses of things, not from the inventions of the pioneer.
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