“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
We’ve all heard some version of the famous axiom “I have arrived!” Whether it was landing the job you always wanted, finishing an educational program or even winning a game of Monopoly, that phrase seems to enter the thoughts of someone achieving a substantial goal. The subsequent thought is that he or she no longer has to work hard; “I have earned a break and can enjoy the fruits of my labor.”
Unfortunately, the moment you stop learning, your knowledge begins to grow stale, like a loaf of bread left unattended. What was cutting edge yesterday becomes passé next week. This applies not only to individuals, but to companies as well. History is littered with companies that achieved amazing heights, only to take precipitous falls when they stopped growing.
Take for example the movie rental company Blockbuster. This movie rental giant went from a 5 billion dollar IPO to closing their 9,100 stores in a matter of years. Why did this happen? They successfully forced most other brick and mortar movie rental companies out of business and created a monopoly. After that, they rested. Blockbuster did not prioritize growth into new markets. Current online movie rental companies like Redbox and Netflix slowly but steadily began eating away at their market share. Blockbuster noticed too late they needed to change their market strategy. As Rosa Luxemburg, a mid-20th century Marxist theorist said, “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” Blockbuster failed to continue to grow to meet the needs of their customers and as a result, no longer exist.
Your organization should never rest and as their leader, neither should you. The leader must always look to the horizon to see what is looming. To be static is to fail. Here are a few ideas to help focus your eyes to the future:
Join an Organization
Find a group of like-minded individuals who discuss what is coming next and become an active participant. Try service-oriented organizations such as Kiwanis or Rotary or specific career-focused organizations such as the Society for Neuroscience or the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators. Attend meetings in person or via online forums to discover what is being discussed and developed in your area of expertise.
Become part of the culture of continuous learning. Take classes at a brick and mortar school or online. One outstanding place to take short but powerful lessons is with the Harvard Division of Continuing Education. Take time to explore the online courseware on Leadership and Management programs at Harvard University. This is one of many resources available to you to ensure you are aware of the latest trends and direction for industry.
Read. Read. Read.
Read the popular media. Read the professional journals applicable to your line of work. Read books on leadership. Read about the latest theories on organizational change management. Keep abreast of topics being discussed in chat rooms and social media from your peers. It doesn’t matter how you consume the information, just ensure you maintain a steady diet of new ideas and original thought. Not everything you read will pertain to your situation, but there will be pearls hidden throughout that will prove invaluable to you and your organization.
No matter how you do it, keep the flow of new ideas fresh. Pass on what you learn to your team and have open discussions about what will work in your organization. Encourage your team to also reach out and discover new ways of doing business. To implement these ideas requires an agile organization willing to make change and take risks…but that is what it takes to survive in business today. As Leon Megginson, a distinguished LSU professor said, “it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”