BUSINESS RULES TO WIN
© Yew Kam Keong
“There are no money problems, only idea problems. Tough times never last. Tough people do.” These were the words of Dr. Robert Schuller, one of the best known motivators in the world to-day. He spoke to a spellbound crowd of more than 1500 people at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur recently as part of his personal crusade to raise the spirits of the people in Asia to overcome the current economic turmoil.
Dr. Schuller practised what he preached. He had conquered seemingly insurmountable odds during his poverty-stricken childhood to the great success that he is to-day. Ideas and persistence were the hallmarks of his success. For instance, he built the world famous all glass Crystal Cathedral with only an idea. He asked for what was thought impossible – million dollar donations and he got them , a total of US$20 million to finance the Crystal Cathedral. His successes are a source of inspiration for us in Asia. According to him, the solution to the present crisis lies in the creativity and the indomitable spirit of the people.
The message for the businessmen striving to revive their fortunes is clear – challenge the business rules to win. This is not new. The famous English poet and writer , George Bernard Shaw has this to say: “The reasonable man adapts the himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.
This message is also expounded by many prominent management gurus of the day. They include the likes of Michael Porter, a professor from Harvard, whose treatise, The Competitiveness of Nations is a must reading for all strategic thinkers. He has this to say: “Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter of being better at what you do – it’s a matter of being different at what you do.”
Another management guru, Gary Hamel agrees with this concept and came out with the idea of contrarian thinking. According to him: “I believe that the beginning of strategy is a contrarian nature. Somebody who is willing to challenge the existing wisdom, challenge the assumption base, and turn it on its head and say, ‘Now, what do we have here?”.
How do we apply this concept of challenging the business rules to win in the turbulent economic environment? Perhaps the following stories will help to illustrate the concept better and provide a guide to businessmen seeking a way out of their financial woes.
Conventional wisdom suggests that a restaurant should have a name to project an image of enticingly food that will tempt the taste buds. A restaurant in Taipei, challenges these rules and came with a rather unconventional and unenticing name, The Stinking Rose. Its speciality? Garlic flavoured with food. Because of its uniqueness and rather unusual nature of its business, the restaurant attracted many loyal patrons and became a roaring success.
In the field of entertainment, names, especially pop groups names are very important and may spell the difference between success and failure. The popular all girl group, The Spice Girls is a good example. Had the group be called by another name, it is doubtful whether it could be as successful. However, an emerging Canadian pop group decided to challenge the rules and called themselves by the controversial name: “Barenaked Ladies” What image does this name conjure? A group of scantily dressed ladies frolicking on stage? The group is actually an all-men band which has caught media attention and is getting more popular by the day.
Almost all perfumes have one thing in common. They all smell good with exotic scents derived from fragrant flowers or from the glands of animals that give off musk-like smell. A perfumery house in the U.S. decided to do just the opposite. They came out with some really unattractive perfume smells. The names of these perfumes aptly describe the smells. These include: Sweat. Dirt and Bacon. Guess what? They have a good following and business is booming!
In the area of management, several companies that have defied the norms of the office environment have succeeded in powering dramatic high double digit growth for their companies with profits to match. A British advertising agency, Howell Henry Caldecot Lury & Partners broke nearly all rules in the de-organisation of its office. The agency staff were not given their own desks but had to make do with hot-desks using any available desk when the need arose. Meetings were conducted standing up so that they will be over quickly saving time. Laptop computers and mobile phones replaced desktop computers and fixed telephone lines. Similarly, the Danish hearing-aid firm Opticon totally dismantled its traditional office structure to form what its chairman Lars Koling termed as the spaghetti organisation, that is one without a centre.
Challenging business rules has its risks but if a business is dying anyway taking such risks could be worthwhile. As illustrated in the above cases, challenging business rules could not only resuscitate a business, it could also set your company apart from the competition and on to dramatic profits. Before you jump into this bandwagon, however, it may be prudent to understand how to generate such ideas for your business.
In my book YOU’RE CREATIVE – LET YOUR CREATIVITY BLOOM, I have explained the five steps to creativity which provide the basic understanding of creativity. This is followed by three primary creativity techniques which could be equated with the three primary colours of your television set, that is, countless combinations could be made with them. Dr. Robert Schuller has endorsed this book, so too has Joe Girard, the greatest salesman in the world certified by the Guinness Book of Records and Mark Victor Hansen, best-selling author of Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books.
It has been said that the greatest insanity in life is to keep on doing the same things and expect different results. The present economic crisis presents a wonderful opportunity to set your creativity in motion. Creativity has become the factor to succeed in this fast changing world. He who dares wins!
Yew Kam Keong (YKK) is the author of the book “YOU’RE CREATIVE - LET YOUR CREATIVITY BLOOM” and The Creativity Site.
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