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How to revolutionise your business

FrogWe’ve all heard the gruesome story: put a frog in hot water and it will jump straight out, but put a frog in lukewarm water, and put it on the heat, and it will sit there and slowly boil to death. That gradual shift from discomfort to threat to crisis means that at no point is there a single trigger strong enough to force the frog to jump.

It’s a powerful metaphor for one reason: it’s the way most of us behave.

If a new relationship suddenly becomes abusive, we pull out fast. If a new job turns out to be hateful, we walk. But when a situation, or a business venture, into which we’ve invested time, energy and emotion starts to slide, we act like the frog – we might not like it, but subtly and subconsciously we adjust, we evolve our expectations, we slowly become inured to the emerging reality. Until it’s too late.

Look at the recent rash of retailers going into administration. None of them suffered a cataclysmic failure. Each one collapsed as a result of long-term problems that they failed to address. Any thoughts of revolution came too late. The guillotine was already falling. So how do you get out of the hot water? How do you trigger a revolution before it’s too late? There are three ingredients you need:

Fear: It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you, and in business, you’d better believe it, your competitors really are out to get you. If your business is feeling the heat, you need to give your people a clear, stark picture of the consequences of not acting. Don’t pull your punches - light the “burning platform”, sound the alarm, force the agenda.

Desire: You’ve got your people wanting to move away from the current situation, so now you need to give them something to move towards. What is it that you can do better than anyone? What was the original “purpose” of your organisation? What still makes you money? Use your people; use someone external; use whatever you need; but create that compelling picture of what the future needs to look like.

Self-interest: Here’s where the rubber hits the road: how do you get your people to take it personally? Logic can make people think, but only emotion makes people act. You have to appeal directly to your team’s self-interests, each of which will be different, but none of which will be financial (if you don’t believe me, read this). Find what makes them tick, and align your needs to their motivations.

BOTTOM LINE: Aim for evolution when you need revolution and you’ll boil like the frog. Call for revolution when you need evolution and sure, you run the risk of being “the boy who cried wolf”, but trust me, you’ll find some great alternatives that you might just want to use anyway. What’s the worst that can happen?

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