“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is one of those well-meaning expressions which is often applied where it doesn’t belong. It may be generally useful household advice, but in 21st century business?
Well, just look at what happened to Nokia.
For most of history, it was probably good business advice too. Adopt successful formula, execute, scale.
But times have changed. Unrelenting technological progress and the social changes that result means that this one successful formula is ever-elusive. The rewards increasingly go to those that can anticipate these changes and most quickly adapt to meet them.
No doubt, you already see the effects of these changes in your day to day work.
Your prospects don’t pick up the phone anymore, unless they’re already expecting your call.
Your email response rates have declined over the years.
Overwhelmingly, this means one thing – being great at execution is no longer enough. You need people on your team who can take the initiative to see problems on the horizon caused by these market forces and solve them – before it’s too late and your old processes just don’t get the job done anymore.
As an employee, you need to learn this skill too. At the very least, you need to be very discerning in choosing who to work for on the basis of their initiative and ability. Otherwise, you’ll be left at the mercy of the market changing around you and won’t know what to do about it.
How to identify this skill in others
Whether you’re an interviewer or interviewee, you need to look for the same thing in the person opposite you – a track record of solving difficult problems.
Ask about the most difficult problem they’ve ever faced at work, then ask followup questions to determine what they did to solve it, the outcome, and their thought process along the way. Depth in questioning is more important than breadth, but try to get two or three examples if you can.
We live in a world where “taking the reins” has never been more crucial to success. This market is not kind to passengers – even hard-working ones. Make sure to future-proof your career, and your team, by making a conscious effort to identify vision and initiative in others – and hone it in yourself.
This article was written by Harrison Wright Managing Director