One very dark night I was walking down the street. Under a street lamp there was a drunk guy who was on his hands and knees looking for something. I stopped and asked what he was doing.
He slurred his words and said, “I lost my keys and am looking for them.”
I asked him, “Where did you last have them?”
He replied, “Somewhere down the street. But I’m looking here because this is the only place with light!”
Of course that is an old (and bad) joke. But it makes a powerful point.
Too often we spend our time solving problems that are under an existing light, rather than working on the opportunities that will “create” light.
It is easier to:
- solve problems
in your area of expertise. This is known as the “if you have a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail” syndrome.
- develop ideas that are based on your past experiences. Unfortunately this means your future will become an extrapolation of the past.
- address issues told to you by your current customers. Of course this means you may not be addressing latent/unarticulated needs or needs of not-yet-to-be customers.
For decades, Sears was the dominant player in the retail industry. And they were one of the first companies to bring the internet to the masses with their Prodigy service, which they founded (with IBM and some other companies) in 1984. As an aside, at that time they were about 10 times the size of Walmart. Ironically, though, they were one of the last players to move from the physical catalogue to online shopping. Their past success with the print catalogue became the “light” from the past that drove their future decisions.
Of course there are hundreds of other similar examples of where blind spots (the dark) were caused by past success (the light) that ultimately led to failure.
What areas of your life/business require a flashlight?
P.S. In a future blog entry I will provide more perspectives on this.