By Uju Onwuzulike
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking”…George Patton
REGARDLESS of the industry we play,at one time or the other, we may have asked this pertinent question: how can we discover more opportunities for business growth? That question goes to show that organisations are looking for one opportunity or the other to improve their results.
In reality, growth opportunities are not magical; they abound in the things we see every day, things we discuss about and things we do. Interestingly, we all live in the same environment, see what everyone sees, hear about the needs of people the same way others do. As an organisation, your ability to think and act differently what others have seen from a ‘generalised perspective’ should be your focus and that is where opportunities for growth stem from.
Discovering the right opportunity at the right time will lead to the growth of one’s business. What will fuel the discovery is one’s ability to think differently. So the key question to ask is: is your organisation ready to discover opportunities others would have seen but were not able to see it as one due to their limited way of thinking? Like Albert Szent- Gyorgyi said, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought”. This is true and it gives a competitive edge. Albert Szent- Gyorgyi was simply encouraging individuals and organisations not to join the band wagon and conform to what everyone else is doing but rather to sit back and think of how to do things differently. Remarkable results always come when an organisation stands out from the crowd and not conforming to their old ways of doing things. Interestingly, we have countless areas of opportunities in and around us.
Customer feedback system
When we see or hear about a customer being treated poorly, processes being too cumbersome, approvals taking longer time than necessary, heavy bureaucracy, lack of customer feedback system, lack of employee welfare, etc, what comes to our mind? Someone might see it as mere problems that will fizzle out with time, another will see it as a time to sit back, think and do things differently for his or her own organisation. The latter is more positioned for growth.
Truly, leaders have major role to play in helping their organisations stand out. They are also expected to build more of future businesses for their organisations and concentrate less on day to day managing of the businesses. But having leaders that will help their organisations stand out and to also build future business may not be possible without a commitment to be more strategic. They must be committed to be more strategic in both their thinking and their actions. Apart from the leaders, the collective employees must also learn how to be more strategic in their thinking and actions. Naturally people were not born strategic thinkers; we were born with our ‘biological thinking’. This is why often times we hear bosses telling their subordinates to be more strategic. Any time I hear such comment, I always pause to ask myself: how will they become strategic if they have not been taught? Strategic thinking is a broader, disciplined and more innovative way of thinking and is being learnt as a skill.
One major barrier that will always come in the way of discovering new opportunities for the organisation is the silo mentality. This happens when individuals or certain units/departments in an organisation decide not to share useful information or collaborate with others in the same organisation. Apart from hampering new opportunities, it affects productivity, reduces efficiency and employees’ morale and at the end of the day the organisation suffers. There is no way an individual or unit with such a silo mentality will proffer any opportunity for business growth. Traditionally, organisations have encouraged analytical way of thinking, where the parts (including some units/departments) are primary and the whole (the entire organisation) is secondary. Silo mentality festers because people in the workplace are jostling for resources, recognition and approval at the expense of others and the entire organisation. But really, forward looking organisations have moved from analytical way of thinking to systems thinking – where the whole (the entire organisation or country) is primary and the parts secondary. Importantly, in systems thinking, cross functional teamwork is encouraged and this is where discoveries for opportunities are hatched. There is no ‘either/or’ solution to discovering new opportunities but so many ways.
What will stand an organisation out is its ability to see what others have seen but decides to think and do things differently. To be able to foster business opportunities and encourage information sharing, organisations must deal squarely with the ‘Silo Mentality’ inherent in some organisations.