The weather down here in Knoxville has been gorgeous, sunny and in the high 60s. Yesterday I took advantage of this weather and went mountain biking for the first time this year. It was a great ride, good traction, a slight breeze and they’d done some trail improvement from the fall so the loop was much faster. On one downhill switchback I went sliding off the trail into the the leafs and subsequently that led me into a tree which stopped my slide. Now sliding into that tree hurt, not only my hand (which connected solidly with the trunk) but my pride as well, I’ve been riding for a few years, I don’t think I should be sliding off the trail into trees. I got unclipped and untangled and hopped back up on the trail. Then it happened again, different curve, different tree, same pain. This time it happened I thought about it a bit more. As I rode away I realized that I was forgetting a crucial element, I wasn’t steering. As soon as I saw I was going off track I would neglect to point myself in the right direction and I would focus only on stopping. The next time I came around a switchback I made the decision to turn the direction I wanted to go, regardless of the consequence. Surprise, surprise I stayed on the trail, now it wasn’t the most controlled turn I’ve made, but it got me around the corner.
Now how often in our business or interactions do we forget to steer? We are so focused on maintaining speed, we get caught up in our daily actions and forget to steer. Creating new products or improvements of existing improvements are crucial, but sometimes the trail changes direction. We can steer better by learning from our customers, to talking with them about the product/service. If not our customers directly, then our salespeople who are the next closest. On my ride If I would have looked ahead I probably could have seen that the turn was coming and prepared for it (and not hit a tree).
Strategy is important too, we must look forward unless we want to join the likes of companies that have been industry leaders at some point, and they become so myopic and focused on what they do, they neglect to look forward until they are at the turn in the trail, and all their momentum, their investment, is propelling them off the trail into a tree.
Going off the trail into a tree hurts, the same is for business. If we’ve been in our market for a long time, like I’ve been biking for a while, we expect the similar performance. We forget that our idea’s that got us started had risk, and that the cycle of change is always happening.
To avoid trees and to make it through switchbacks I think we have to steer and look ahead. What do you think? Is one more important than the other? Or is their an “x” not considered here that trumps all others?