Time flies: use it or lose it

Photo of retro neon sign with winged roller skate and the word SKATELAND above a brick skating rinkIn recent years, being busy, overworked and sleep-deprived has become a badge of honor. Ask how they’re doing at a cocktail party or a Zoom meeting, and inevitably, people proudly reply, “I am so busy.” Or they just answer emphatically, “BUSY!”

And especially in times of crisis, these same people feel ashamed to say they have down time or that they took some time away.

But the real shame is not taking the time away.

When we give our brains a break from routine rushing about, it’s an opportunity for magic to happen. This is the sweet spot that creates a petri dish for innovation, creativity and eureka moments.

If you really want to have a big, big, big future—and make it a reality—you’ve got to slow down. You must pause and create time for introspection, deep down soul searching and what-iff-ing.

Even in tough times, time eventually flies.

A year from now, many businesses will look entirely different. New ones will have sprung up. Some will have vanished. It’s what you do with your NOW that will dictate what your organization looks like in the very near future.

Stop being busy and build your big, big, big future.
Take a break from the chaos to create space for new ideas and new solutions to present themselves. It’s critical, and it’s the responsibility of every leader to model it and encourage it.

Set some away time for yourself and with your teams. Then work these four steps to building bigger, better future for your brand:

1) brainstorm
Start some discussions about the customers you serve:

  • How do their lives look different today than they did a year ago? Six months ago? Yesterday?
  • Can your offerings adapt to these new needs or concerns?
  • How can you bring more value to them in their new situations?
  • Can these discussions bring up ideas on serving additional customer segments?
  • Who is left out? And can you bring them in?

2) evaluate
Step back and look at your ideas. Don’t kick the outrageous idea to the curb without giving it due consideration. Evaluate everything fairly by asking:

  • How do they support our brand?
  • Which ideas best align with our purpose?
  • Do they represent strong future markets (as we can best forecast)?
  • Do we have the infrastructure to implement, or can we build it or evolve what we have?
  • Can something that seems stupid be really good if we tweak the idea a bit?
  • What are we willing to invest to do a larger test if this is successful?
  • Who will we need to help us make it happen?
  • Can we test? And if so, how?

To make the roll last longer, my mom used to tear paper towels in half before using them. A lot of mothers did that. Eventually, a smart manufacturer noticed and began offering perf’ed “half sheets.” Imagine the brainstorm and evaluation questions they must have asked before getting to that point. Now, observe how it adds value to their product offering.

3) experiment
Be willing to experiment a bit. Famous innovator Doug Hall from Eureka! Ranch says, “Fail fast and fail cheap.” Time is rolling forward fast. What can you try quickly with little risk? Can you:

  • Start by asking trusted, loyal customers for trial and feedback?
  • Put out a Minimum Viable Product to see how new markets respond?
  • Define how you’ll measure its success?
  • Consider what polishing must be done to make your MVP something better?
  • Determine what internal plans, employee communications and training are needed?
  • Establish time frames needed to go live in a small market? In a larger one?

Be willing to create the inexpensive tests before you dive in. You might fail. But you might win. Either way, you've risked little and learned a lot.

4) go
Don’t fall prey to analysis paralysis. You’ve already done the hard work of brainstorming, evaluating and expermimenting. It’s time to dive in.

Now’s the time to get busy again. But do it with a better purpose: with a solid plan in place and eyes wide open. Continue to carve out the time to think. I dare you to take some time to play. Repeat this process like clockwork.

Being busy can fill your time, but it doesn’t fill your future.
Whether it’s a pivot, a new invention or a commitment to making your existing product even better, without the investment in thinking, planning and taking action, you’ll go nowhere. But dang, you will have been busy! Where did the time go?

If you need help facilitating innovation and brainstorm sessions—and creating a future-forward culture: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Martha to schedule time to talk.

Photo credit: Mika Matin on Unsplash.

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