Friday, December 21

Looking For Newness: You Could Be

For every advantage big established companies have in the field today, they have some disadvantages too. Part of the problem is newness or, more precisely, the lack of newness. They just do what they do.

Even if they do what they do well, they have a disadvantage on the newness scorecard and it's not only cosmetic (as in a new advertising campaign). It has to do with what they are doing or aspiring to do that conveys a sense of urgency and excitement. But more importantly, there is a psychology to it all.

A steady stream of newness helps make everything worthwhile. 

The biggest cliche in business circles (and sometimes individual lives) is that everything is going well or good, real good. Few people ever offers and specifics. They treat the entire conversation as a string of obligatory niceties.

"How are you doing?"

"Fine, you?"

"Good. How's business?"

"Oh, you know. Moving along."

"Anything new?"

"No, not really."

If zombies could talk, this would be their conversation. It's frightening and pathetic all at once while explaining why zombies have resurfaced as leading paranormal lore. We're terrified they might be us.

The problem with many businesses, even startups after a surprisingly short time, is they all gravitate toward the same. They experience a tremendous surge of elation before falling into routine or boredom. Complacency is the same thing with just another name. Newness tends to be inspired.

The three paths to prevent zombification. 

There might be more, but three is enough to illustrate the point. The businesses that are most susceptible to boring either tell it all, have nothing to tell, or are too busy shrinking themselves into nothingness. The objective is to do the opposite without killing yourself.

Initiate one new thing every month. While this is scalable to company size, the point is to make it manageable. Having even one new thing (with a definite beginning and end) can ensure your company is always moving forward. It's all right if it overlaps other months. It's the start that counts, especially if you can break up one project into several milestones.

Don't blurt out every idea today. It's one of the hardest things for startup businesses to manage. They want to share every product, service and success story on the front end. Share inspiration in little bits and pieces to show progress rather than sharing everything with nothing new to share for months and months. (Interestingly enough, social media almost demands constraint because several months of nothing feels like an eternity.)

Bring more to life than you kill. Whether or not there is an economic recovery in progress, many businesses have become too used to the idea of cutting back. Even when cutbacks or putting things on hold becomes a primary objective, companies and organizations cannot afford to kill more than they create — even if that means creating while cutting back. Newness can come in efficiencies too.

To recap, companies and organizations can plan initiatives to phase over the course of a year (phased in to prevent overload and burnout), show restraint in communicating anything until it is relevant (even if some of the work is already done), and always plan to create more newness than they kill.

The latter is important, especially in light of how many organizations I have seen kill off programs without replacements. Doing so almost always creates the impression of surrender while demoralizing employees and board members at the same time. Worse, even if the organization attempts to salvage a program later, resurrection (especially at 50 percent) will only reinforce that they let something go.

The same holds true for individuals. Musicians are always working on the next track. Artists are always working on the next work. And authors are at least thinking about the next book. It's how they keep their audiences engaged — something new is always on the horizon.

In fact, it doesn't even have to be as lofty as all that. Newness can be big or little, long or short term. The "what" doesn't matter as much as the continual "when." People like 'newness' news, especially the good kind. Almost anything might work (or ask your kids for some vicarious newness), just as long as you don't have to bore people by saying fine, good or the same old thing. Do that too often and they might not even bother to ask.
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