I recently started paddling on a dragon-boat team here in Portland. Being non-competitive by nature, I joined a team of people who are in it as much for the joy of being on the water as for winning. I’m the youngest member of the team and reasonably in shape, so I was doing a wonderful job keeping up with the tempo and duration of our practices. I even got a little over-confident, thinking how lucky this team was to have me.
One particularly rainy, cold day without many teammates at practice, the coach set me straight. She watched me for a few minutes and then proceeded to tell me my stroke needed tweaking. “You’re not doing it right” were her exact words. “You’re young and strong, so you can get away with it, but you’re using twice the energy necessary.” She then walked back to where I sat (not a common or particularly safe practice on these boats) and fixed my posture. I immediately felt the difference.
The point? Businesses do this all the time. Especially the successful ones. Just because you’re lucky and skilled enough to be the best at some particular aspect of your business doesn’t mean you should stop searching for ways to do it better. Complacency is a dangerous habit. Blackberry comes immediately to mind, but there are scores of others examples. Examine how, why and what you’re doing on a regular basis. Perhaps most importantly, keep people around who will tell you when there’s a better way to do things. After all, when the coach fixed my posture, that same amount of energy did twice the work.
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