The Human Condition

As humans, the “unknown” can the scariest, most crippling, life halting obstacle that we might face. However, as entrepreneurs, our lives should be drawn to the exploration and conquering of the “unknown.” It is in these spaces that the greatest answers can be found and breakthroughs experienced.

The challenge we all eventually face is the comfort of the familiar, which becomes our greatest burden. It’s not that the familiar is necessarily bad, but the urge to hold onto the familiar in a rapidly changing world can destroy us.

Netflix, for instance, didn’t kill Blockbuster the long-standing movie rental stores. As a matter of fact, Blockbuster’s reliance on the income they generated from charging clients late fees is what killed them.

Likewise, the progression of technology didn’t kill Kodak the photography company. In fact, Kodak was the first to produce what was to be a digital camera. However poor vision and reliance on finances from film production caused them to side-line the invention and so they lost all market share when rival companies eventually released digital cameras.

You see, when we find ourselves in a place that we are fairly comfortable with, we become oblivious to the opportunities that come knocking. We put our focus on the bottom like rather than what would help the client, we miss the innovative ideas that could produce the biggest breakthroughs.

How is Ignorance an Asset?

Our greatest strengths come from identifying what we don’t know, taking the plunge anyway, and figuring out the rest as we go.

The magic is in the knowing that which you do not know and acting in the face of it. This is the action of industry leaders. They seek out a problem, one that perhaps nobody else ever noticed as a problem. Then they decide to find a solution and then mass produce or implement that solution.

But this all stems from the acceptance that we don’t and can’t know everything. We accept the inherent ignorance we have and pursue the answers relentlessly. From this, some incredible innovations always immerge. These are the people and companies that we can’t ignore. The ones that change the world…literally.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs, 1997, Apple’s Think Different commercial.

This has been proven time and time again. With some of the most notable ones immerging in the last twenty years.

Here are some examples.

• Alibaba, the world’s most valuable retailer, owns no inventory.
• Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles.
• Facebook, the world’s largest media company, owns no content.
• Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.
• Netflix, the world’s largest movie house, owns no cinemas.

How Can You Change The World?

Ok so maybe for you changing the world isn’t your cup of tea, but maybe you want to change YOUR world? Or perhaps your industry? Don’t think it’s possible? Well in order to do so you are going to have to change how things are done. To change how you see things and change how you design your client experience. I would say it could be as simple as getting an “ignorant” perspective.

Here’s the thing though, you want people who know as little about your industry as possible, if at all. Why?

In his book Range, How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World, David Epstine draws a parallel between the significant impact people have and their apparent ignorance in what they do or the approaches they take. The idea is that people with a vast well of experiences outside of your industry could see opportunities that your industry has yet to even recognize.

Yes, there are outliers in this space, people who are very specialised and do it so well that they are the “go-to” people in the industry, but even they have their limits. In reality, it’s the people who are known to be the “jack of all trades” that tend to be able to adapt to new challenges and environments introduced due to technology and time. They are usually the ones who are able to find the most significant innovations.

And today, we could all do with a little bit of innovation in our businesses.

How Can You Leverage Ignorance?

There are a number of ways to do this, but the first thing is that you need to be open to possibilities that will make you uncomfortable. It’s only in this space that you can hope to innovate. But such is life, we live, learn, adapt, and thrive.

The great thing about the generations entering the workforce today is that they have likely been exposed to abundantly more experiences in their short lives, thanks to technology, than many of the CEO’s and executives of most companies today. This gives a whole new dimension to problem-solving and critical thinking.

Perhaps what you should do is look to hire a few younger talents, not just for their skills in whichever field you find yourself, but also for brainstorming and general vision casting. WARNING, in this space you need to be sure that the people you are engaging with are passionate about the business growth and not just in their bank accounts. That will come.

Another alternative and perhaps more effective is to look at a business coach from outside of your industry. Someone who has a passion for innovation and progress. Someone who can see a vision and identify not only potential roadblocks but more importantly, parallel and seemingly unrelated opportunities.

The hallmark of any executive or business coach is their ability to ask the right questions and challenge preconceptions. To prod and poke at every nuance of a business or brand to understand why it ticks the way it does and where the cogs need some oil or a complete overhaul.

When it comes to your industry, the best way to break away from the pack is to have someone break your understanding of  whats possible in your industry.

The biggest struggle we face is that we are in the thick of things day in and day out. Eventually, the only things that we end up seeing are the fires that we have to run around putting out. Sometimes what we need is to have someone show us where the leak is so we can fix the pipe and move forward rather than digging your own grave so you can throw sand on the fire.

A completely unbiased perspective can show you the things you’ve been missing for the longest time and allow you the opportunity to love your business again. You and your business deserve it.

Now you can spend your time on what you are most passionate about, your clients and their needs.

Much like Steve Jobs and the iPhone, people never knew they needed a smartphone until Apple gave it to them. Likewise, your clients don’t know they need something different until you offer it. What is it that your clients really need to make their lives better?

Bonus Brand Strategy Tip

Ask yourself this. What is your client’s greatest pain point, and how can you help them resolve it?

If you can figure that out, you are well on your way to becoming a disruptive force in your industry.

This question itself, if well directed and thought through, can change everything. But it takes a certain level of ignorance to cut through the BS and excuse ridden comforts that we fall into over time.

So the question is, who are you speaking to that is ignorant enough to ask the right questions that will push your brand/business ahead of the game?

Here’s to your vision.