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Jans Corner: A radically better 2013

The end of the year is in business traditionally associated with both looking back and planning the next year. Normally, we approach the business plan for the next year as an extension of the previous year. If we feel pressed or optimistic, we budget in an incremental percentage increase. We feel really bold and daring when the percentage is in lower double digits.

What if we could approach next year differently this time? In a radical fashion. One that could mobilise us and awaken the latent potential in the business.

A radical approach starts with a radically different question. Rather than asking about what can we accomplish or improve next year, ask what if it was possible to double our business or team performance? Yes, to double productivity, sales, profit or whatever is the key performance indicator for you. Or whatever has been the biggest challenge in the past.

The magic that opens up from entertaining such a question should not be underestimated. An interesting phenomenon occurs when we acknowledge that something radical is possible. We begin to search, to look intensely for ways to find out, even if we don’t know how exactly in the moment. It opens a space for us to boost our collective creativity and collaboration in areas that remained unexplored before. Also old assumptions and ways of thinking and operating will surface and be up for a challenge and upgrade.

Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, used to lead his executives to set two types of goals for themselves and their business units – a base goal and a stretched goal. The base goals were the minimum that had to be accomplished for the business to perform at a level, to stay competitive and profitable. Stretched goals were designed to target the bold ambitions and bring the best out people to on the way to accomplish them. One thing was obvious, if one wholeheartedly pursued the stretched goals, the accomplishment of the base goal was virtually guaranteed. So there was no pressure just the opportunity to stretch, to expand one’s capacity and discover the hidden potential. No wonder GE was growing in spectacular fashion for several decades.

You can capture the same untapped resources and creative energy whether you are part of a small or an international corporation.

Just consider the following questions as an example:

:: What if we could attract double the customers in half the time next year? Would we be willing to explore that? And plan for it?

:: What if we could spend just a third of the time in meetings while accomplishing more every single time we meet? Would you be willing to challenge how we think about and run meetings? And change the way we go about them?

:: What if we could double our profitability while working less and having more fun and fulfilment at what we do everyday? How would need to interact and approach each problem and opportunity? And what kind of work environment we need to create and sustain?

Often, what limits us most are not the realities of the outside world but the questions we don’t ask and the assumptions we don’t question – individually and collectively.

I wish you a radically better 2013, not because you should or have to, but because if you play you might as well play big. You might be surprised that it actually takes less time and effort and is far more rewarding whether you actually achieve your aspirations or not.

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