A hare ridiculed the short feet and slow pace of the tortoise, who replied, laughing: “Though you be swift as the wind, I will beat you in a race.” The hare, believing her assertion to be simply impossible, assented to the proposal; and they agreed that the fox should choose the course and fix the goal.
On the day appointed for the race the two started together. The tortoise never for a moment stopped, but went on with a slow but steady pace straight to the end of the course. The hare, lying down by the wayside, fell fast asleep. At last waking up, and moving as fast as he could, he saw the tortoise had reached the goal, and was comfortably dozing after her fatigue.
The lesson? Slow but steady wins the race.
Putting the lesson into practice
Environments are dynamic, always changing, and plans, tactics and strategies in action are the great equalizer. In theory the hare cannot lose, on paper his physical advantages over the tortoise are undeniable. But the hare’s weakness is not realizing that success is dependent on a combination of skills.
The hare assumes that his physical advantages are sufficient to win, ignoring the importance of other elements of success. The tortoise understands that being short on legs is a disadvantage, so instead she works on exploiting the hare’s vain presumptions.
She will force him to make an unforced error, she’ll have nothing to do other than merely walk at her tortoise pace to the finish line, he’ll do the losing for her. In action, old assumptions are disrupted as new facts on the ground create new realities, new facts, new opportunities; it’s in these types of environments that entrepreneurs thrive.
There are advantages to doing research and relying on past data to make predictions and better decisions about future events. There are also disadvantages to letting personal biases and assumptions alone dictate future actions. Entrepreneurs look at data critically to spot trends which help them better identify wealth creating opportunities and make more informed decisions.
The hare is arrogant because he knows the data clearly establishes that a hare has never lost to a tortoise, that’s it’s physically impossible, therefore he has nothing to fear. But it’s not entirely impossible, there are other factors than merely physical. The hare is guilty of confirmation bias, he only looks at data that backs up his wishful thinking and eliminates all fear of losing.
“That’s the thing about counterintuitive ideas, they contradict your intuitions. So, they seem wrong.” Paul Graham
Good research and solid data can in fact help make better decisions, offering some visibility into the future, like a crystal ball, but only if its objective and looks at a problem from all angles, not just the physical, otherwise it acts more like a ball and chain.
Physical attributes are important to the hare, but the tortoise will win on her mental advantages. She looks at data from a more holistically perspective, rather than only that which will suit her false assumptions. Thinking holistically is an important skill for entrepreneurs who cannot reach their full potential if their thinking is rigid, dogmatic, grounded only in theory.
Exploiting opportunities successfully requires flexible, creative and critical outside the box thinking; the strategy must be aligned with the facts on the ground, adaptable and able to manage change in a dynamic environment. A holistic entrepreneurial mindset is always connecting dots, and is able to not only recognize but also capture, and exploit new opportunities. In a competitive environment, holistic and consequent strategic decisions and actions is where the rubber meets the road, which leads to a real world where the impossible becomes possible, where the tortoise can beat the hare.
As it turns out, it isn’t the tortoise who wins, but the hare who loses. The story is counterintuitive because all are guilty of looking at the problem from only one direction – except the tortoise. She’s in her comfort zone – entrepreneurs thrive in counterintuitive ambiguous environments.
She seeks a strategic advantage and turns the expectations of loss into a disruptive event – she’s in the game of finding solutions by thinking out-of-the-box. She turns the problem on its head, understanding that to win, slow must become fast, and time must become an ally, an advantage, a critical component of her strategy. The tortoise knows she has weaknesses; but by redefining the problem, the hare’s weaknesses are greater and become his fatal flaw.
She knows the hare thinks emotionally, not strategically, easily loses focus and distracted, with a short attention span, his mind clouded by his massive ego and conventional thinking. He doesn’t calculate, he prefers to wing it, she not. The hare not only underestimates his opponent’s mental strength and determination, but his own undisciplined mind plays tricks on him, and he overestimates his own inevitable victory.
Hubris blinds him, his rigid and false assumptions seal his fate as he falls asleep on the job, miscalculating, losing control, and bankrupting his chances. Thinking like an entrepreneur the tortoise focuses on her objectives, steadfast, mentally strong, strategically focused, racing all the way to the finish line on her short feet, and destabilizing her faster opponent precisely because she’s slow, very slow, so very, very slow.
“Time can be an ally or an enemy. What it becomes depends entirely upon you, your goals, and your determination to use every available minute.” Zig Ziglar
How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos
One wrong move and Netflix could have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of entertainment. But by staying ahead of the curve and embracing disruption, the company is threatening some very entrenched competitors.
Attendees of the annual Cannes Film Festival are typically not afraid to be vocal in their dislike of a new film — booing and hissing are both surprisingly common — but the recent film Okja possibly set some sort of record. The crowd was booing and jeering before the film had even properly begun. In fact, all it took was the name of the studio behind the film: Netflix.
Why the animosity? Netflix is disrupting the film industry, and the traditionalists aren’t happy. After debuting at Cannes, Okja wasn’t released in cinemas. No, instead it was released right to Netflix, free to stream as long as you have an account.
Of course, few would have guessed a few years ago that Netflix would ever get into the business of making its own television shows and movies. According to industry lore, entrepreneur Reed Hastings launched Netflix because he was annoyed with the exorbitant late fees of video/DVD store Blockbuster.
Instead of having to return a movie once you’ve watched it, he conceived of a business that would ship DVDs right to your door through the mail.
It was a clever idea, but not one that seemed terribly disruptive. The whole process could be a bit of a hassle, and it required you to schedule your entertainment well ahead of time. Blockbuster even had a chance to buy Netflix, but decided that it wasn’t worth it.
The rise of streaming
Even as Netflix was hitting its stride in the early-2000s, the tide was already turning. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Internet was going to be an incredibly disruptive force, but many companies failed to notice. Or, if they did notice, they failed to take adequate action.
By 2007, the potential of streaming TV shows, films, music and books online was clear, but the DVD business was still doing well. However, Netflix decided to prepare for the future (and disrupt its own operations) by launching a streaming service. It did this by going to the traditional movie studios and television networks, and asking to licence their old content.
In the view of these studios and networks, old pieces of entertainment had run their course, so they were pleased with the new revenue stream.
This brings us back to Okja. Netflix has been creating its own content for the last few years because it realised that studios and networks would eventually catch on. At some point, they would understand that they were giving Netflix the ammunition needed to disrupt the industry. Why have Netflix stream your content if you could create your own streaming service?
“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Hastings said of one of the most popular American cable channels back in 2013.
In a mere 20 years, Netflix has gone from a low-tech operation that sends DVDs through the mail to one that not only streams content online, but is also producing its own content — content from some of the most respected actors, producers and directors in the world. All of this is costing Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, and it remains to be seen if this strategy will ultimately pay off, but betting against Netflix is risky.
Netflix has shown itself to be uniquely capable in drastically shifting its business model. Here is how Hastings explains it: “Short-term optimisation about being efficient is the death of long-term success and innovation. Building Netflix, we created a company that tolerated some short-term chaos, and we manage right at the edge of chaos. The value of that is keeping and stimulating the amazing thinkers, so when the market shifts, like DVD to streaming, or licence to original content, we have in Netflix all kinds of original thinkers, and that is the long-term optimisation that all of us in organisations want.”
SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth
Fresh growth is all around us this Spring – find out how you can powerfully manage growth as you provide leadership to your SME.
In the transition from start-up to scale-up, a critical factor for a growing business is the quality and strength of its leadership team.
Learning to trust and empower staff is a crucial step for SME leaders who wants to grow their business upwards.
As a business grows, one of the biggest challenges for the business founder and leader is the hand-over of an idea from the founder to the people who work there, The brand moves from being one person’s idea to being the professional focus of a whole group of people.
Without effective leadership, small businesses will be held back, more than three-quarters of SMEs provide no leadership development for their staff. What does this mean for you?
If you lead your business with vision and clarity, you set yourself apart from your competition. Here’s how.
Lead the pack
A growing business creates more work than a leader can handle alone.
As the team grows, founders often react by micromanaging the details of their business. In trying to take on everyone else’s job, the founder often leaves the most critical position vacant: strategist and vision-setting.
Learn to trust and empower others in the organisation and you will find you have room to innovate, which is critical for business growth.
Steady the ship
An effective leader will also engage others in the business to embrace and adapt to change as growth continues.
- Vision: First, plot the course for where the business should go in the short term, and the long term.
- Change: Understand what needs to be put in place to grow the business. You might need to source better business operating systems to streamline this growth, or change a few internal business processes, or rethink how you calculate your hourly rates.
- People: Growth equals change, and change equals pain, so if you want growth, budget for pain. Understand that you will need to guide and coach the staff into changing their mindset and adapting to these growth changes.
We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door
Focus on creating value, not disruption.
Multibillion-dollar legacy industries don’t make it easy for entrepreneurs to step in and create value. There are huge barriers to entry – licensing, pricing, regulations, and cultural/brand significance – that come with being around for a century or more.
However, those barriers shouldn’t stop you from innovating.
Take the utility sector for example, which is perhaps most frightening of all: A trillion-dollar taxpayer subsidized network of poles and wires set up through franchised municipal monopolies. Otherwise known as, our power and energy industry. It’s a mouthful of protection, and as a result, utilities make for a great investment (just ask Warren Buffet), since the likelihood of disruption is tough to even think about. To most reasonable entrepreneurs, the regulated utility sector, similar to the financial and healthcare industries, is tantamount to a “NO TRESPASSING” sign.
But, that is exactly what makes the effort so worthwhile. If you can successfully work with or alongside a monolith industry and produce value, instead of being focused on “disruption,” you’ll be able to achieve massive results.
When we first started trying to provide consumers cleaner and better energy options, getting to market proved difficult as we were trying to break into a utility-customer relationship (paying a power bill) that hasn’t really changed for the last half-century. But, with a clear mission in mind and the understanding that we would have to work in unison with utility providers, we were able to start making our mark.
Here are a few tips for getting your foot in the door:
1Create value, not disruption
There are some industries where the Silicon Valley catchphrase “disruption” falls flat. Some industries just aren’t meant to be disrupted in the way that people in the tech community are used to. Nearly our entire economy depends on the power grid and we couldn’t come in and totally upheave that. When you’re going after a big industry, you first need to provide value to the customer or the provider.
Show instead of tell that you have a strong customer base and that people need what you’re offering. And build relationships – working together with the big players in the space will get you much faster and better results for your company and your customers.
2Focus on the customer experience
When you’re a startup, you already have the advantage of being years ahead in your digital experience compared to traditional companies in your space. Own that and hone in on it to make it the best customer experience possible. We looked across sectors to bring modern design, UX and data elements to the home energy experience.
Traditional companies aren’t necessarily thinking that way, and you’ll win people over by offering self-service customer tools, easy payment options and notifications they actually understand. Good communication with your customers goes a long way.
3Start small, build toward the vision
A lot of start-ups begin with very lofty goals – disrupting whole industries and changing the entire way a process is done. We certainly had a broad vision to be the trusted home energy advisor for everything from solar to batteries. But, you’ll never be able to achieve anything if you try to tackle everything all at once in a highly regulated and old-fashioned industry. Instead, to get started, focus on one thing.
For us, it was offering clean energy via renewable energy certificates (REC). By starting small, you’ll be able to learn about and understand the space you’re going into, and will be able to see if there’s a market for what you’re offering. As you learn, you can slowly expand step by step and tackle more complex products in the industry.
4Use best practices from other innovative industries.
No industry has a monopoly on good ideas, and the boom in direct-to-consumer brands across apparel, food, finance and healthcare provides a great roadmap for how to build a modern customer experience. Look to other industries that have been there and done it. For example, Mint.com has created an innovation through the consumer interface – in their case to manage finances – while leaving the existing banking and credit card infrastructure in place.
While the thought of breaking into an established industry is definitely intimidating, in today’s entrepreneurial environment it is definitely possible and innovation is desperately needed. Success depends on the ability to shed your typical idea of disruption, and stay patient and persistent.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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