Lets Talk It To Death!

Question: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Twenty – but the light bulb has to want to change. The cynical view of psychiatry is loads of loads of dialogue that has nothing to do with productivity. Many businesses today have tied themselves up in a similar conundrum. The business-making equivalent of an encounter group. Loads of opinions. Mountains of data. Matrix decision-making.

There is very little real insight. Very little forward progress. Very little volunteering to take accountability. Everybody expresses their opinion, everybody exercises their presumed right to play a role in decision-making but nobody goes out on a limb to take a risk to make a decision and push forward with commitment. It takes forever to get anything to market and by then it is so watered down from compromise and so late the opportunity is wasted and the general consensus becomes – “we’ll need to have more conversations about this kind of endeavour next time so we don’t take the same risk”.

For people who want to make a difference it is like going to work every day and trying to swim a race in a pool full of cold porridge. Eventually you’re going to grind to a halt and be subsumed into the sticky quagmire. Talk does not create profit – action does. And too much talk and too little action leads to the death of retail businesses.

Great retail businesses stand out because they understand that what they need is pithy insight not mountains of data. That they want clever ideas not a cacophony of noise produced by people who just love the sound of their own voice. Businesses that understand they will succeed by making the distance between the articulation of the opportunity and the execution of an idea to exploit it as short as possible.

To paraphrase Jack Shewmaker – one of Wal-Marts favourite sons – the only defendable competitive advantage is speed.

Counter-intuitively, your staff will engage more when they see movement and momentum than they will be being ‘included in the dialogue’. Movement creates energy. In retail it is very clear that that a restless mind is a dangerous thing and lack of doing leads to restless minds. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs know that if you keep making decisions and keep moving – just like a great athlete in motion – you can adjust and rebalance as you move. But standing still for great lengths of time and then suddenly jerking into motion just means you’ll ‘pull a hammy’.

In the 21st century, retail businesses need to keep it simple. Insight. Idea. Plan. Execute. Refine. With the bias of organisational energy spent on execution and refinement.

Don’t talk it to death. Act. Your customers love energy in motion. Your staff loves energy in motion. You will love energy in motion. And above all, your shareholders love what energy in motion produces. Profit through endeavour. You can’t take talk to the bank, but you can take it to the economic grave.