Embracing the Obvious

Greetings.  A new week has started, filled with challenges and possibilities.  But before you find yourself driven by your calendar, in-box, "to do" list, PDA, and all of your regularly scheduled meetings and responsibilities, try to find at least a few moments to take a fresh look at the most important things on your plate.  Maybe not today, but some time during the week ahead.  And make sure to put those moments on your calendar.  Then use that time to get off of your bottom and out into a world around you filled with ideas and inspiration.  A place where other companies, organizations, and people from all walks of life might know something that could, when combined with your own insight, greatly enhance your success.  

To give you a clearer sense of why this is vital, think of our friends at the Census Bureau who are responsible every ten years for counting all of us in great detail and using that information to allocate our representatives and influence public policies and programs.  It's a big job, especially given that there are now over 300 million of us, and one can only imagine the importance of technology in doing it well.  That's why it was surprising in April 2008 when the Census Bureau decided to pull the plug on a major initiative to automate the collection of data for the 2010 census.  The specific project, which was to create a handheld device that would be used by census takers, had already cost over $600 million and was not close to being ready for prime time.  And the government contractor, Harris Corporation–a company probably filled with its share of geniuses, was requesting more time and money to complete the job.  Not a perfect result.  Not to mention the direct hit in the taxpayers' pockets.  

But it didn't have to be that way.  In fact, there is reason to believe that the insight and inspiration needed to find a better solution was always in plain view of the key decision-makers in the public and private sectors.  They simply failed to notice it. Because we can only imagine that each and every day men and women wearing the most stylish brown apparel were regularly visiting their offices, dropping off packages, and carefully logging detailed "tracking" information onto cleverly-designed handheld devices.  Probably not much different, in the most important ways, from logging information that "tracked" the people who make up the United States.  And yet, no one ever asked: "What can Brown do for us?" 

UPS Driver

More often than not, we fail to realize that the answers to our challenges–or at least a better starting point for the answers–have probably been thought of by someone else.  Often in another industry or walk of life.  Often just outside our door.  And being curious about what others know could be an amazing tool in efforts to deliver compelling value on time and at a reasonable cost.  But for many government agencies and contractors, the thought of starting from scratch is appealing.  That is until they screw-up big time!

We win in business by assuming that we aren't the smartest people on the planet, and by looking around for powerful ideas and solutions that can be adapted to meet our needs.  So once again, please bear with the census takers and their pencil and paper forms.  Even if it is, according to our kids, "so last millenium."

Cheers and have a curious week ahead!