There is a saying that goes like this: Adventure begins when you leave your comfort zone. The message is that innovation and creativity are not generated when people do only what is comfortable. The same is true for business strategizing. Spending hours detailing a plan supported by exhaustive production and financial projections is the same as living in a comfort zone.
Typically, a business manager involved in planning is looking back to determine the future and gets trapped into thinking the same way. That is not a formula for developing innovative strategies that take a reasonable leap of faith when making difficult choices. A powerful strategy that increases the probability of a business succeeding reflects creativity unleashed that is put to a reasonableness test. It does not begin with realism because that limits thinking.
Following are some tips for leaving the comfort zone:
• Do not Plan – Strategizing is not the same as planning. Planning is a process that begins with a goal, develops initiatives, and creates a financial plan that supports implementation and operation of the initiatives. This restrictive process keeps managers on a straight and narrow path of traditionalism and does not question assumptions. It focuses on today and not five years down the road. Strategizing is a process that is all about choices. Assumptions are questioned. Long-term goals are set and kept on the radar. Initiatives that are expected to be successful are supported by resources rather than forcing plans to fit cesoures.
• Let Change Take its Course – A good strategy accommodates change by recognizing that choices will have to be made as circumstances change. When strategies are forced to fit one particular set of circumstances and managers refuse to make adjustments, the strategic initiatives are usually abandoned. Instead, the manager should be alert to changes that impact the strategy and be willing to readjust elements of the strategy to keep it on course.
• Focus on Finding and Keeping Customers – It is customers who generate sales. No one else. Focusing on cost containment is a sure fire way to destroy a strategy because it takes attention away from finding new customers. Without a steady flow of customers, revenues will not be produced nor will they increase. Put the focus of the strategy on attracting and retaining customers because that is the true path of success.
Get Out of the Box
Strategizing is a process that should lead to creative thinking rather than a process that boxes managers into a confined set of historical approaches – the comfort zone. In the comfort zone, people spend most of their time reviewing minutia. Outside the comfort zone, the effort is put on things like customer satisfaction, innovation, and effectively managing change. Strategizing is a process in which comfort is just not welcomed.
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