By , Founding Partner, Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC
The evidence is clear … Some slight reordering of time and priorities – and a different attitude –have astonishingly high personal and organization ROI. The payoff is great, gratifying and energizing. What is the simple secret? It is the word that has been on my mind for the past year – and I keep coming back to it in almost every aspect of the work we do at Masters Alliance. It is substantiated from my experience working with over 2200 CEOs, Presidents, BU Heads (and their direct reports, etc.).
Business Edgy-ness. Edgy as in teetering, pushing to the limits, on the brink of something. As in there’s energy buzzing, excitement brewing and something cookin’ in the business. Disruption, Leading, Edgy – all these modern words have been used to describe one of the fundamental principles of business – Discovery.
Businesses around the globe have been built on the single seed of an idea which was then developed, tested, adjusted, tested again and implemented with the mission of positively changing the way we work, play, or live – whether it is ground breaking technology, breakthrough medical advances, or simply a revolutionary way of thinking. It’s a thrilling process – one that motivates leaders to stretch, seek more, and invest resources in the unknown.
Have We Lost It?
Why has EDGY been on my mind for this long? Because we seem to have lost it. We seem to have backed off the edge in so many ways. Discovering creative ways to serve the customer, being adventurous in business strategy and driven to experiment in the unknown have become too uncomfortable. Instead, we talk about “winning” as being on the edge. Here’s the thing – winning is not edgy – there’s always a winner in every game – no matter the competition.
Can you remember the last time others were left speechless upon hearing what great new things your organization was planning to implement? Can you still feel the thrill of bringing a product or service to market that was top-secret, and your shareholders and customers were taken aback by how revolutionary it was? What happened to being part of the Age of Discovery? In talking with leaders from a diverse set of industries, I’m noting a disturbing trend – we’ve grown irrationally afraid of failure. We’ve lost our desire to teeter on the brink of greatness. Safety and security have won out over invention and exploration.
What is Edgy-ness, Really?
The edgy I’m talking about is planning for the new, the unknown, the risky. It’s surprising, unique applications, flashes of the obvious. The edgy I’m talking about also makes your employees’ hearts beat faster, gets them to the office early and stay late – without even realizing that time is passing. I’m talking about something that startles your customers with delight, that makes them look forward to whatever is coming next. When you are edgy, your suppliers and vendor partners work together with curiosity and wonder. But wait, if you are thinking that EDGY only means big things, please reconsider. Edgy is thinking and doing differently – internally and externally – making a difference in the way we and our customers do business.
Edgy means that we are on the edge of our seats, waiting for what happens next. Not in fear but anticipation, with a true experimental, learn, change, adjust, recover and do attitude – and most importantly, a plan for when it goes even better than our wildest dreams.
Does that sound exciting, exhilarating or like an impossible dream state? Is that kind of energy and enthusiasm the complete opposite of how you feel right now? It’s that time of year when you’ve given it all you had to make the last quarter’s results as good as possible, and frankly you’re tired. Maybe even feeling tapped-out and overworked. Edgy sounds like the right business thing to do, but frankly, it looks like a lot of effort and your energy reserves are drained. The New Year is already underway and calling out it’s familiar theme: “What have you done for me lately?” Keep reading – let’s work this out…
Edgy-ness has many dimensions – Jeff Bezos purchasing the Washington Post for a presence in the “seat of government,” achieving an implied influence for Amazon that Microsoft lacked at the time their aggressiveness was considered “anti-competitive” [Forbes Magazine, January, 2018].
Edgy-ness is a client embracing all the fullness of our “double half-life” implementation principle – extending the 2X speed, ½ time, 2X more effective, to the equipment manufacturing discipline. One of three teams engaged in a 45-day effort, was challenged to keep manufacturing of large carbon fiber production equipment in the US, vs. Asia. Our guidance was to achieve a goal of ½ size, ½ weight, 2X throughput, 2X efficiency at ½ the cost of equipment. This Edgy goal engaged many other participants – including engineering “thinkers” who love being edgy, living for challenges. The result – within 45 days, an effective new design was achieved and the equipment manufacturer was retained in the US! And with somewhat unexpected competitive advantages.
Interestingly, we also take for granted important discoveries from firms which noticed how we play, work, live, etc. A few historically surprising “unknown-need” examples: disposable diapers, panty hose, microwave ovens, program recording, GPS, thumb drives, avatars, etc.
Status Quo is Transformation’s Enemy
You’ve already started a list of why it won’t work. It may include things like “Been there done that, we’d never get permission, our competitors have already tried and failed.” Also on the list: the statistic of “97% of all products don’t make any money (75% of consumer packaged-goods and retail products fail to earn even $7.5 million during their first year)” – according to a leading market research firm. These numbers alone would explain how we got to a status quo preference. The list might be very long. But if you really look at the list – you can see these items are a mere reflection of your fears. Fear of failure, fear of accountability, fear of change, it goes on and on. But here’s the real kicker – is it possible that you are actually afraid to really succeed? What does that mean? The predictable rhythms of success and growth to which you’ve grown accustomed keep you in a steady state. If you take that risk, and actually succeed, then the world changes quickly. With success comes new expectations, new demands and new activities. How do I know? Because we’ve experienced and seen these fears at work!
What’s In It for You?
Once you’ve lived on the razor’s edge, you know the excitement, exhilaration and the gratification of competing vigorously in the marketplace. You also know the stats and have experienced some disappointments. But if you haven’t experienced this competitive energy in your organization – or can’t remember the real joy of making a difference with customers – then let’s take a hard look at who you are, and who you want to be. So, what if others failed? Did they miss the mark on the idea, fail to execute, quit too soon? It is our experience that the real disappointment is directly related to 1) failure to really live in customers lives and notice their difficulties or complexities and 2) failure in effective, timely implementation.
Assuming you would rather be engaged than tired, you have everything to gain by getting closer to the edge – don’t you? First, from an employee experience viewpoint, you should imagine a dramatically improved, connected and engaged workforce. They are having fun, making a difference for customers and getting better business results. Customer loyalty scores are rising as they wait to see what’s next. You are setting the tone in the marketplace – you have the time and the talent to make sound decisions about whether you want to lead or be a fast follower. The closer to the edge your organization lives, the more resilient it becomes! Fear of failure morphs into energy of solving tougher problems, creating opportunities. The mindset of the entire organization begins to shift [but much, much faster than “conventional wisdom” would indicate]. It’s a “new way” of doing business and it’s attractive to the top talent you’ve been trying to recruit for years – the difference-makers. Isn’t that the kind of momentum you want to describe to your board of directors in your next meeting?
Still See Barriers?
Feeling immobilized from action? Is intense competition and slow growth dulling your creativity? I’d like to suggest a way out of the situation. Perhaps a good session with your customers and your customers’ customers can help you see the reality of your situation – opening up the hidden opportunities! In today’s expanding, but highly competitive economy, this means taking stock of what needs to be adjusted, digging deep, thinking, exploring, getting ahead of customer needs – helping your customers prepare to get more competitive, helping them have dynamite product/services to offer their customers. Venture out onto the field and see what your customers are really needing, or may need in the future – and stretch and anticipate to exploit those opportunities.
A Double-Check…BUSINESS EDGY-NESS, Always in Style, Always Needed
For companies that have spent considerable resources, time, talent and capital, to reach the top of their industry – it’s sometimes easy to get comfortable after celebrating great wins. The hunger to win is sated and the team wants time to rest and a reason to refocus after a hard-fought battle to the lead position. And yet, this is no time to rest on your laurels. It is time to get even closer to the edge. It is always time for successful companies to become even more successful.
Get a Head Start This New Year – Start Your Day Differently
Edgy-ness is looking at things differently, doing things differently, working differently…and seeing markets and customers differently. It’s even about beginning our day differently. Start by thinking about EDGY-NESS…what it means to you, your organization, and your team. Wrestle with the idea, experiment. Consider these thought starters / specific action steps.
Answer a few questions at the beginning of each day [6 minutes max!]:
- What would excit me at work today?
- What would excite my team / my organization today?
- What would excite my customers today?
- What could be concerning my customers today – external and internal?
- How can we begin to be more EDGY today?
- What one small thing will I do today – to be more EDGY?
Expand the influence:
- Track your daily answers…notice the trends, results
- Pass along the experience to your team, direct reports
- Ask them to follow the same process themselves …compare notes
- Make Edgy-Ness a standing topic for your team meetings
We Can Help
In our 30 years of helping over 120 clients, we’ve helped companies break through fears / barriers and truly interrupt markets. Most recently, we helped a Health Information Network company unlock the market in the process of implementing highest quality e-prescriptions – increasing customer/partner engagement and satisfaction…and streamlining processes to work best in a digital world.
Edgy doesn’t come solely from the Innovation Group or Innovation Process. It also comes from deeper within – from those employees who are closest to the customer who can’t wait to solve their problems with some simply outlandish solutions. There are hidden opportunities, buried in your organization, that only need a sponsor who believes in them to see the light of day. Imagine all of the unsupported, undiscovered and untapped potential, safely and securely stashed in your organization – and all you have to do is create a barrier-free path to help bring them into the light.
We help you uncover the hidden opportunities and barriers faster and more pointedly – because participants will candidly and confidentially talk to us. We help you poke and prod your organization into feeling disrupted enough to make a breakthrough, a required change. We help you redevelop that skill – change the culture from within, while working together to help you get things done faster and more creatively in your organization.
Visit mastersalliance.com for more.
Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC
7701 France Avenue South, Suite 325
Minneapolis, MN 55435
About J. Allen, Founding Partner
Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC
Creating new ways to gain unusual, breakthrough business results, competitive advantage
30 years of management consulting experience with over 120 client organizations in 20 industries, in 13 countries – ranging from Health Care, Financial Services and Retailing to Software, High Tech Manufacturing and Chemicals. A Marketing/Finance Graduate of the University of Illinois, a former US Naval Officer, and veteran of 12 years of intense corporate responsibility. Has guest lectured at the University of Michigan Graduate School Of Business, at New York University and served as Board Member, Board Chair and / or President of numerous corporate, volunteer and club organizations.
The ability to meet the challenges of difficult situations is demonstrated by these client comments: “…Courageous and effective in talking with executives about stretch opportunities as well as problems they were causing that impeded results and growth…Has a unique ability to promote positive change in organizations…Linked immediately with people at all levels, effectively documented their needs, helped them become a significant part of the business”
A few representative clients include: Microsoft Central Europe, Kellogg’s, Federated Insurance Companies, Allied-Signal Aerospace, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, US Indian Health Service, ADC Telecom, Thomson Reuters, Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, Patterson Companies…
Helping management teams and others achieve what they did not believe was possible, is a primary driver. Helping organizations achieve strategic success, raise the operational bar, improve market penetration and strengthen the bottom line are tangible deliverables. Fast results and knowledge transfer are a must.
About Masters Alliance Consultancy, LLC
Making Already Successful Companies More Successful
…creating opportunities and generating results
Engaged, Winning Organizations that go after markets delivering…Revenue Growth
Passionate, Driven Organizations for customer connection delivering…Competitive Advantage
Tenacious, Achievement Organizations for getting things done delivering…High Performance
At the Front of the Curve, Helping others Make a Difference, Excel in their Markets
Information Security in the Cyber World >> Inner-City Hospital Renewal >> Nuclear Weapons Complex Best Practices >> Solar Manufacturing Innovation Leadership >> Software Development / Distribution in European Expansion >> Aircraft Landing Systems Breakthrough Invention >> Drug Prescriptions in the Digital World >> Processing Center Transformation >> Record Setting New Channel Entry