I don’t know much, but I know this:
No story ever ends well when it begins with the following, panicked question, “Does that clock have the correct time??!!”
Today’s story is no exception. Here’s what happened…
I came home for lunch yesterday and I noticed that the digital clock on top of the stove was flashing “1:07 PM.”
So I asked my wife, Linda, “Hey, did the power go off this morning?”
She said, “Yes, but just for a few seconds.”
So I punched a few buttons to stop the flashing and started the clock going again … at 1:07 PM.
I had plenty of time before needing to leave for my 1:45 meeting up the street, so I looked through the mail, pet the dog, made myself a sandwich (egg salad), and sat down to eat with Linda.
I checked the stove clock several times over the next few minutes, to make sure I was still on schedule. No problem … PUH-LENTY OF TIME.
I told you this wasn’t going to end well.
Because a couple of minutes later, I looked up at a different clock – the battery-operated clock above the kitchen table – and saw that it read 1:50 PM!
That’s more or less when I uttered the panicked question referenced earlier: “Does that clock have the correct time??!!”
Linda casually checked her watch. “Yep,” she said.
Suddenly it all made sense. What happened was that when the power went out (at about 12:20), the stove clock reset itself to noon, losing twenty minutes in the process. An hour or so later, when I wandered into the house, I assumed (incorrectly) that 1:07 was the current time.
Needless to say, I was late for my meeting.
But it did get me thinking. Thinking about how easy it is to get fixated on one source of “truth,” and use it over and over again, all the while ignoring other, possibility better, possibly conflicting sources of information.
In my case, and despite the fact that there are five clocks in my kitchen – three digital, two analog – I insisted on paying attention to just one … the wrong one.
In terms of running a business, the same kind of thing can happen to each of us, in our own way, every day.
We monitor the same two or three stats for our web site; we participate in the same discussion forums every week; we read the same handful of blogs; we attend the same conferences; we talk to the same people. And on and on and on.
We soak up lots of information, but since it always comes from the same few sources, all we ever get are slight variations on the same thing.
That’s a problem. It’s a problem because the big ideas for your business – whether that means big opportunities to take advantage of or big dangers to watch out for – aren’t going to reveal themselves if you never look beyond the same, old, comfortable places.
I remember once reading that a disproportionate number of new businesses were started by people who moved to a different part of the country.
It didn’t matter where they moved to or from – it was the change in perspective that allowed them to see what was missing or broken or necessary in their new location.
But it’s not easy; we’re all creatures of habit. Here are some things that have worked for me in gaining a new perspective (clocks not withstanding):
- Use different information. If, for example, you only pay attention to the number of unique visitors to your web site each month, add something different to the mix. On which pages do people spend the most time? What browsers generate the most traffic? In which parts of the world do site visitors live?
It doesn’t matter so much what you choose, so long as it’s something you haven’t considered before.
- Read new things. Buy a newspaper that you’ve never bought before. Read a book that has nothing to do with the type of work you do. Find a new blog, or newsletter (keep this one) or online magazine.
- Break some habits. Drive to work along a different route. Sit in a different chair at the next meeting. Put your shoes on tomorrow morning in a different place (I mean a different part of your house; I still recommend putting them on your feet – Ha Ha!).
Here’s the bottom line. I know you don’t have time to analyze every stat, read every article or attend every event. But the fallback from that doesn’t have to be never trying anything new.
Mix it up – even if it’s just in little ways – every chance you get. If your experience is anything like mine, the new information and perspective you gain from these side trips will be the source of your best and most important ideas.
Gotta go. I have a strange feeling that I might be late for something …
P.S. I know you’ve had this song in your head since reading the title of today’s newsletter. Go ahead, take a stroll back to 1982 by clicking this link and watching the entire thing, sung by a guy who looks a little bit too much like my dentist.