Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Grocery Shopping and Other Business Traps

 When you go to the grocery store, or your partner does, how often are you purchasing a different brand or style of food? If you’re like most of us, you thoughtlessly wander down the aisles pulling off those same, familiar packages or produce. In the “name of efficiency” we don’t often stop to reevaluate our previous decisions unless there’s a hiccup in our system, like a stock shortage or dramatic price increase. Once we’ve made the decision about the most economical, most trusted, most nutritious, most flavorful, most delightful food stuffs, we make our shopping trip as short and painless as possible by getting the same old, same old. 

Likewise, in business, we have the same habits. Once we decide on certain service providers and suppliers, we thoughtlessly just “reorder.” Once we decide on our strategy, we rinse and repeat. Same with marketing channels and job advertising. If we make any adjustments, we increase the intensity: more, faster, harder… If one person is making the grade, hire another high-powered, more experienced person. If the sales leads aren’t happening, up the advertising budget, put it in more places, make it more frequent.

Rarely do we stop and question whether we’re heading in the right direction, targeting the right audience, seeing the gaps in competitive offerings. If there’s a problem, we want a magic pill to solve it. It’s true in our health—90% of heart disease patients don’t change their detrimental lifestyle—and it’s true in our decision-making habits. We rarely change how we do strategic planning, how we explore the unknown unknowns, etc. Even a crisis doesn’t make long-lasting changes. With a stock shortage, we go back to the comfortable, purchasing once again what we used to buy when it’s newly replenished. With strategies, we see glimmers of success and so we continue on blissfully unaware that this may lead to a dead-end, a trap.

You can reinforce habits, even business habits, with good feedback mechanisms. You can also create new habits by “burning the ships” so you can’t go back to the old way of doing things, the old standby “recipes” of strategies and decisions. Beware: even change programs don’t create lasting change.

When was the last time you made a long-lasting behavior change? When was the last time you made a significantly different, countercultural, revolutionary, industry disruption? Please don’t just thoughtlessly go down your business “aisles” plucking the same old, same old decisions and strategies off the shelves.

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