Volume 3, Number 7 - July 12, 2005

Statistics can be very useful. The science of statistics allows us to use limited data to reach conclusions about larger populations, thereby saving both time and money. But using stereotypes, a simplified and unsophisticated way of doing the same thing, sometimes with no data at all, can be dangerous and costly. Painting customers, suppliers, or employees with a broad brush can cost your company in both the short and long run.

I just returned from a visit to Kansas, the state that remains home sweet home for me. Yes, it is flat, grows a lot of wheat, and is home to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. But it is much more than that. Once again I visited the Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. It houses the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow, as well as the Odyssey, the vessel that famously brought the Apollo 13 astronauts safely home. Why is all that located in the middle of Kansas? Because there reside the most talented spacecraft restoration craftsmen in the world. The Smithsonian sends its most challenging spacecraft restoration work to Kansas, as does Russia. If you’ve driven through Kansas as fast as you could to get to the other side, you’ve missed a real treasure. And the state holds many more.

Similarly, you’ve likely missed real treasures if you’ve painted your workforce as incapable of solving problems or generating great improvement ideas. If you’ve written off customers and suppliers as unable or unwilling to help improve your company or improve the supply chain, chances are opportunities have been missed. Beware the broad brush. True, it’s quick and easy, but often at an exorbitant cost.

In the normal course of my professional life I meet many unemployed executives. More often than not, these executives “didn’t see it coming” and begin their search at ground zero. While outplacement services can be helpful, nothing replaces strong current connections. But there are other reasons to stay current and connected.

Very few professions remain unchanged over time. As we work to balance professional life with family and personal lives, efforts to stay current in our chosen field can easily default to solo activities like reading. There is significant value in seeking out your peers, the “A” players in your field, to ensure you keep skills and knowledge current, to exchange ideas and experiences, and to benchmark yourself against the best.

Another reason to stay connected, and one that not everyone supports, is to actively compare your current position to others. You can always say “NO” to an opportunity with another company. It can be a good idea to verify that you are choosing to continue working for your company rather than you remain there because of inertia. It can be motivating to discover what skills other companies expect you to have.

Fulcrum ConsultingWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.
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