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4 Tips for Staying Relevant

Over the course of the summer my boys have been finding “treasures” in the lake.  An old frisbee, little kid trucks and cars, and recently this beat up old toy bus you see in the picture.  Upon closer inspection you can see it says “Northwest Airlines” on the side of the bus.  My son’s first question was “what’s Northwest Airlines?”.

Northwest Airlines was a major U.S. airline founded in 1926.  In 2003 they launched a new tagline of “Now you’re flying smart” and the brand aimed to highlight its perks for “today’s smart business travelers.”  Unfortunately, just a few short years later they filed for bankruptcy.

I felt sad and nostalgic realizing that this airline, which I remembered well, and had been around for 83 years, had simply become a thing of the past and unheard of in the world of my 14-year-old son.  Unfortunately, the story of historic and successful companies that have fallen to ruins is not uncommon, which got me thinking about the current marketplace.  What are today’s leaders doing to ensure their organizations stay relevant in today’s rapidly changing economy?  How will they prevent their companies from becoming obsolete?

I was recently talking with a client who said they are going to move forward on a project they’ve been discussing for 25 years.  25 YEARS!  The best part is that this project will diversify their business and has the potential to account for a significant portion of their revenue.  So, what stopped them from moving forward with this project in the past?  Name the excuse and they probably used it: not enough time, not enough resources, not the right resources, too much turnover, and the list goes on.  So, why now?  Well, they have a leader who re-envisioned the project, found a better way to get it done, and was able to get the necessary buy-in to move forward.  So far, he has been met with some resistance (and he anticipates there will be more resistance and obstacles to come), but the project is moving forward despite the resistors and the fear of the challenges.

This client is a perfect example of what Adam Grant shares in his book, Think Again.  In it he says “Thinking again can help you generate new solutions to old problems and revisit old solutions to new problems. It’s a path to learning more from the people around you and living with fewer regrets.”  So, this begs the question – what are you doing to think differently about old problems?

Tips to Stay Relevant:

  1. Cultivate creativity. Google does this by encouraging their employees to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit the company to empower the employees to be more creative and innovative.
  2. Create a culture of psychological safety. If you want your team members to be comfortable and confident in sharing ideas, voicing concerns, solving problems, and asking for help, then you need to create a safe environment for them to do so.
  3. Generate a pipeline for talent. This is about thinking and planning for who your company will want and should hire in the future.  Bringing in new and diverse talent can invigorate a company with a fresh set of eyes and new ideas.
  4. Encourage a growth mindset among your employees. Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset, describes this concept as “it’s not intelligence, talent or education that sets successful people apart. It’s their mindset, or the way that they approach life’s challenges.”  When your business encounters challenges, and it will, you’ll want people on the team that face those challenges head on.

May you be persistent as you continue to think differently about problems and find ways to avoid your company or team ending up discarded and forgotten at the bottom of a lake!

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