Cherish your rebels and anarchists – they get the job done.

Much like every family has a black sheep, every corporate group has a rebel that goes against the grain. This rebel is your biggest weapon. They break the rules that need to be broken and start the conversations that need to be had. The average employee avoids rule-breaking and conversation starting because it’s uncomfortable and against the written and unwritten rules.

Companies that die usually do so through their own doing. When you force everyone to stay in their lane and do as they are told, you set yourself down a path to mediocrity. Mediocrity only wins when an industry is non-competitive (I’m looking at you, real estate and broadband/cable).

Rebels and anarchists are agents for change. They push you to understand which rules are broken and force you to think outside the box. Naturally, most of their change and suggestions will not happen but the constant pushing and drive to be different is the nature of evolution. Most new features will usually be rejected but every so often something rises up that changes the world.

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The Past is a poor indicator of the Future.

Our experience is built from things that have happened in the past. It is built up from things we learned, things we experienced, and the things we imagine could happen. All of this is built on the past and our best bet at extrapolating it to the future.

Experience is important. It helps us to understand how situations tend to go. We learn how to deal with different types of people. We learn what can go right or wrong across the various things we work on. These things we learn are largely the building blocks of interactions, not actual outcomes.

Outcomes change with every new event because, like experience, they are built on the past of the participants. Those collective pasts add up to something new and different because everyone tries to avoid the errors and issues that they have previously experienced. Trying to avoid bad things from the past require new results.

Therefore, the past requires the future to be different than the past. Using the past to exactly indicate the future is a bad call. The past is an input into predictions but it says that things must change.

Turning theory into practice takes a special way of thinking.

There are a lot of theories that could save companies a ton of money, increase their productivity, and make their employees happier. Plenty of consultants can kill a forest and tell you the many, many things you could do to achieve this nirvana. Very few consultants will give you the roadmap for going from where you are today to this state of nirvana.

It’s even more difficult with resources inside of an organization. When you have a full-time job already, finding time to think differently about an issue in the short-term that will drive long-term change is nearly impossible. Very few people are comfortable running projects that will dramatically change their world – and potentially eliminate their current role.

Change Management has been a hot topic for a long time. It’s a fuzzy world that can be hard to describe. Every Change Management project is unique because it involves helping people in different situations and cultures adopt something new. Selling this concept is hard because either the person on the other side of the table understands the difficulties (and the time it takes) involved in change or they don’t.

If you can’t turn theory into reality, it doesn’t matter how good the theory is.

Sometimes you just get it done so the box can be ticked.

There are plenty of business as usual activities and tasks that we do only because it’s on a checklist somewhere. We could spend hours railing at the uselessness of the activity to maybe have a 50/50 shot at getting it changed. At the end of the day, simply doing it saves time and allows you to live to fight another day.

When what they are selling doesn’t match what you really need…

When buying something that you don’t have today, it’s really hard to figure out how this new thing will actually fit into your world. For example, moving from Excel-based Lease Administration to a formal Lease Admin system seems like a no-brainer. Listening to a sales pitch, it has all the same functionality but better! But when you get it, you suddenly realize all the additional time and attention to detail that is required. It’s nothing like the Excel-based world. It’s so different as to be something new entirely.

If technology decisions were only about the tool itself, they would work 90+% of the time. Instead, we live in a world where many (if not most) new systems fail within the first year. The reason? People don’t understand that the thing they are buying will change how the work is done.

Change management is the single biggest obstacle to overcome when dealing with something new. It could be a new phone, new computer, new shoes, new color of pen. To some people, the change itself is the problem.

When talking to a salesperson, they will usually make their solution sound simple. And in a business-as-usual world where it is setup and running, it may be. But they will often gloss over the change challenge unless you bring it up yourself. But that is the challenge when getting something new – you don’t know all the right questions to ask.

I’ve always found the network to be key here. Someone somewhere has dealt with your same question, problem, or vendor. Covering all of your bases at the start will save you a lot of time and frustration later.

The path you walk today is not the path you will be on tomorrow.

Often times, our experience sets us off down a clearly marked and outlined path. On this path, we can clearly see what the next two or five or more years hold for us. By walking the path, you will get a certain set of new experiences, certain new responsibilities, and hopefully, master a new set of skills. This path seems easy.

The paths that we walk can diverge from the clear markings at any moment. A wide variety of variables influence what could happen:

  • Your current job changes unexpectedly due to changes at your company (M&A, financial difficulties, leadership changes, organizational changes, etc.).
  • A new offer comes your way that is too good to pass up.
  • You decide you want to do something different.
  • The economy changes.
  • Your industry changes.

At any moment, the change can happen. Sometimes you see it coming but often times you don’t.

Being aware of the shifting nature of your path is important to future-proofing your career. Even if you want to stay at the same company for the next twenty years of your career, you must walk the shifting path on that more narrow space. There’s no such thing as long-term certainty. All of life is about risk management.

If you operate with the knowledge that change is imminent and unexpected, you will be more prepared for it once it does arrive. The hardest part of dealing with change is the first days of it when the people impacted are in denial. Navigating these early days successfully is the single best way to quickly arrive on a newly cleared path.

Retail is not dying, it is simply changing.

There are many doom and gloom articles about the pending death of retail. It’s a vastly overstated premise. Much like how Apple and Android disrupted Nokia and Blackberry in the mobile phone industry, Amazon and other e-commerce companies are disrupting traditional brick and mortar retailers. This does not mean that retail is dying, but it does mean some traditional retailers will continue to fade.

Take a look at the retail process of yesterday and it looks very similar to what it is today.

  1. A customer goes looking for something that they want. Use to be in a store, now it occurs in a browser.
  2. The customer either purchases the item the first place they find it or price matches at competitors.
  3. Item is transported to the customer’s final destination. Use to be by the consumer direct, now often through parcel/post.

The retail process is unchanged to what shoppers want, the only difference is that technology has disintermediated the process from where it used to take place. Big box retailers used to have a monopoly on shopper attention and information. If you wanted to purchase a TV you had to go to Wal-Mart or Best Buy to compare them. Now you can go to any number of websites that compare the newest models in depth and even have fairly robust images, videos, and reviews of them. You actually get more information about what you want to buy by NOT going to a brick and mortar store.

For groceries, the brick and mortar store still remains king for now but even that is starting to change. The key differentiator for the grocery store is the ability to guarantee the freshness of hot/baked goods and produce. However, as supply chains further mature and advance even this starts to change. How much further do we need to go before shipping fresh food to a customers front door is more efficient than shipping to the store?

Retail is a great example of the poor of the information age disrupting legacy industries. The fundamentals haven’t really changed once you dig in but it certainly appears to be fundamentally different to the traditional players.