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Business Threats : Learning to avoid blindspots.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. Henry Ford.

When you find yourself thinking that you know just about all there is to know about your business, we can almost guarantee you have dangerous business blindspots - problems or gaps in your business that you are completely unaware of or underestimate.

What typically results, if left unaddressed, is a potential threat to the business (e.g. lawsuit, loss of major account, key staff leaving) which can damage your business and often bring the business crashing down. Its like the business having its legs cut out from under it. Years of hard work brought undone by "unexpected" threats or market forces.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing... never lose a holy curiosity. Albert Einstein.

The best way to avoid these blindspots is through continual learning. You need to develop a consistent thirst for learning - learning about: your processes, your market, industry best practises, your people, leadership, financial management, technical issues, relevant technology - the list can be as endless as your business ambition.

It's worthwhile taking a look at the basic process we go through in learning. The Conscious Competence Matrix  outlines four distinct stages:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: we are not aware of a particular skill or our deficiency in it.
  2. Conscious incompetence: we become aware of the skill and its relevance. We realise that achieving this skill will help to make us more effective.
  3. Conscious competence: we become competent at the skill when we concentrate on it.
  4. Unconscious competence: the skill becomes second nature, we can conduct the skill without thinking about it. We can even teach the skill to others.

Think about almost anything you do well in life - walking, driving, any sport, reading - and you'll recognise these stages. It's also easy to regress back through the stages, particularly if you stop practising the skill. We all know the adage " Use it or lose it!"

Going through cycles of competence-complacency-incompetence (or less competent) is a natural human condition. Like anything worthwhile it is up to us to turn this potential negative condition into a positive habit.

It is impossible to become educated by learning only what we like. Dr Frank Crane

When we start a business we are often blissfully unaware of all that is involved. We are aware of some skills we need to learn and generally focus on the easier ones, or the ones we feel more comfortable with.

For example, if you have a sales or marketing background, working on building the business comes easy. You get excited about learning new marketing ideas and systems and applying them to your business. The core operations or financial management of your business usually don't get the same focus.

It's these "less likeable" areas of your business that you really need to invest more of your time learning and understanding. Success is sometimes our worst enemy. The more success and experience we have in our business, the more we feel we 'know it all'. Without realising (unconscious incompetence) we drift into operating the business in a comfort zone.

But when it comes to business, the true definition of comfort zone is DANGER ZONE. As soon as you stop learning business blindspots set in and like rust, they keep spreading throughout your business.

What can you do about it?

Here are some simple steps that can be built into your weekly routine, i.e. part of your ongoing habit.

1. Re-ignite your passion for learning

Sometimes, just doing a simple cost-benefit analysis of re-committing to learning is enough to get the fire started again. If you don't think you can, you need to consider brining someone on board that is hungry to learn? and get out of the way!

2. Set some new goals

Motivation for learning is closely linked with your general motivation - and motivation comes from the direction we are heading in, not where we've been. Comfort zones creep in when we have achieved major goals and not set ourselves new, more challenging objectives to aim for/work towards.

It's easier to get excited about why you need to learn rather than what you need to learn. Exciting goals provide exciting reasons.

3. Ask Questions

Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask! Ask your staff, clients, suppliers what they think are the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats to your business - and listen. Perhaps you have a new team member who you feel may not understand your business that well - perfect - they probably have the fresh opinion you need. Encourage and reward frankness.

4. Study Case Studies

Access as many diverse business case studies as you can. Read them with an open mind particularly when people are sharing their understanding of what didn't work for them. Don't write it off to naivety, there could be some useful head's up for you.

Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught. Sir Winston Churchill.

5. Lean on us to speed up your learning!

You are the expert on your business but many of our clients find an objective perspective invaluable. We're not here to teach you, we lead you through simple processes that help you understand your business better.

We can be involved as much or as little as you need. We love learning too. Our accumulated knowledge across our diverse client base provides priceless insights that could help you make some quantum leaps today.

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