Changing the Rules of Engagement

purpose_senseiThis post is inspired by the book: Practically Radical by former Harvard Business Review Editor and Fast Company co-founder William C. Taylor. The premise of his book is that for businesses, being good at everything isn’t good enough. Simply being good at anything isn’t enough for that matter. You have to be radically unique and innovative at one thing in order to stand out – in fact survive – in an increasingly hyper-competitive, connected and shrinking marketplace.

He argues that you can be: “the most elegant, the simplest, the most exclusive, the most affordable, the most intensely local, the most seamlessly global…” but you have to pick one. Each business and industry is different and so there are different choices each must make when determining what that one thing is but you have to pick just one.

Middle of the Road is a Road to Nowhere

The problem with many business strategies is that they adhere to industry best practices and frankly, you can’t truly innovate when working within predefined parameters. Even those who claim to be change agents and “out of the box thinkers” (oh, how I hate that expression) are subconsciously burdened with the rules they’ve learned in their MBA courses or the baggage they’ve accumulated through years of industry seminars and consultant analysis.

Breaking free of the pack requires a business to do more than be the better than their competitors at their game. They have to change the rules of the game. To illustrate the point, Mr. Taylor references the new Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.When approval was received to rebuild the hospital, the board of directors challenged themselves to not only rethink the hospital’s design but to rethink the role of the hospital in the lives of its patients and within its community. To achieve this goal, they looked outside their industry to find a CEO from a complimentary yet completely different industry. They found it from the executive ranks of the Carlton Ritz Hotel chain. The radical rethink resulted in a hospital that is not only designed but operates like a resort or a boutique hotel rather than a traditional healthcare facility for the sick. For example:

- “Guests” check in before coming to the hospital and are greeted by a concierge upon arrival who walks them to their suite

- The physical building is designed to look like a resort lodge instead of sterile open spaces and hallways

- The concierge works with guests to understand and accommodate their needs such a how children will get from school to the hospital to visit their parents

- High-tea is offered every day at 4 PM with a tea sommelier who teaches the health benefits of herbal teas

- An open area farmers market is held once a week

- They operate a top restaurant-quality kitchen and food service

Re-imagining how a hospital operates within a community vs. simply striving for industry best practices has created an award-winning market leader in a state that’s been suffering 30 years of economic hardships. Having already met industry best practices for healthcare they had to change the game’s rules to innovate. They changed their focus to hospitality. Their goal was to cure the sick but they achieved it by not considering visitors as patients but as valued guests.

#bizforum debate

How do leaders break conventional wisdom and unload the baggage they’ve accumulated through education, industry experience and business pressures in order to change the rules? That is the focus of the #bizforum debate on Twitter tonight at 8PM eastern standard time. Resolutions open for debate will challenge strategic leadership tactics, paradigms and practices.

A teaser:
Industry standards are inherently problematic to business growth. Agree/Disagree/Why?
Hiring a CEO from outside your industry is best strategy for business growth. Agree/Disagree/Why?
The best business strategy is a corporate culture. Your culture is your strategy. Agree/Disagree/Why?
Employees, not leaders and products, are the biggest barrier to brand differentiation. Agree/Disagree/Why?

Sam Fiorella – Sensei
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego

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