Friday, September 16, 2011

Does Your Business Need Parking Sensors?

My parents were kind enough to lend their SUV to us for a few days. We had quite a few things to haul hither and yon so it was a great and much needed help.

When you drive someone else’s car, it takes some getting used to. The buttons are foreign looking, the switches are in different places and you always set the car alarm off at least once – and not for entertainment purposes!

This SUV is fun to drive for a host of reasons. The seats warm in the winter and cool in the summer. What’s not to love about that? The other nifty thing is that this SUV is also equipped with a parking sensor gadget which means that if you get too close to something, the car will let you know about it. It also has a funny little camera that helps you when you drive in reverse.

It occurred to me as we were driving that there were many interesting lessons about business (and life) that were to be had thanks to this parking gadget. And with that, I'd like to share this list with you (co written with Amir and originally published on 12 Most).

1. Watch your back.
We always talk about being forward thinking and innovative – all good things. We’d suggest that looking at the past and absorbing lessons learned then so that we can be better friends, spouses, partners, colleagues or what have you. And, oh yeah, watch out for that car.

2. You're too close.
Sometimes, if we’re so enmeshed in something, we lose objectivity. The temptation’s there to keep working at whatever business problem we seem to be facing. We say resist it, move away and take a cleansing breath. When you come back, you’ll see things in a whole new way. And you won’t hit that garbage can either.

3. Sometimes, other people see things better.
Like #2, this is about objectivity. Let a different perspective inform your thinking and help you process information, ideas, etc. You don’t always have the right answer – and that’s okay. That rear facing camera can let us know how far that bumper is – and that beeping noise will too!

4. It’s okay to ask for help.
There’s no shame in asking for help. It’s the courageous ones that recognize that outside assistance may be needed to be successful. The ancillary benefit: you just may learn something new! You don’t always need that rear facing camera. But it’s okay to use it.

5. It's okay to accept help.
Sometimes, we don’t know when or how to ask for help. It’s the tragedy of the human condition. If someone comes along and offers a helping hand, accept it gladly. And if it appears they need your help in future, please return the favor.

6. You're still a free thinker.
We love gadgets and we love talking about them. It’s knowing when to stand on your own two feet and putting a stake in the ground that matters. You’ve not lost your sense of reason nor analytical skills. Use them or lose them! You don’t need that beeping noise to know that you’re about to hit that bike.

7. Look before you leap.
We like it when people embrace chance and risk. We admire that level of courage. But, those mirrors, beeps and cameras can stop you from an “oopsie” moment.

8. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
A lot of times, we like to do the same things in the same way ad nauseum. We can’t argue with it if it works. But when new gizmos come along that help you look and do things in new ways, we should embrace it. Similarly, if someone wants to share new things with us, let’s spend that extra moment to listen.

9. Humility never gets old.
It’s okay to be gobsmacked by the new and different. The more we learn, the more we realize we have to learn. When we play with all of these new toys, we grow even more impressed with the creativity and genius of the engineering mind. And it pushes us to work harder to test our own limits.

10. It’s okay to be old fashioned.
Like #6, you can get by without new gizmos. Be immune to others’ judgment if you prefer to do things (sometimes) that hearken back to a simpler time… like a few years ago. Be careful though as this should not be mistaken for being resistant to change. That’s typically not a successful strategy.

11. Don’t lose the forest for the trees.
At the end of the day, the purpose of the car is to get you from point A to point B. Similarly, in business, we have objectives that we are tasked to hit. Getting caught up in the minutiae of tactics instead of the big picture confuses the issue. The new and flashy stuff is great – but make sure you have the eye on the prize.

12. Be open to change.
The first month my parents had this car, my mother didn’t drive it at all because it was a bit overwhelming. We sympathized because it did look a mess of buttons and knobs on the inside. Now, she can tell you all of its intricate details. By accepting change and being open to learning even when it does seem overwhelming always leads to something new and positive.

This parking thing-a-ma-jig is just an example but really, anything that is new that forces you to see things in new ways can test limits we didn’t know we had. Alternatively, when faced with things that are now “obsolete” our minds have difficulty in absorbing how it was used and why it was so loved. Ultimately, it’s a “use what works for you” type of thing with a dash of willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

What would you add to this list?

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