Have you noticed that we often prefer to focus on the smaller, more manageable issues in life, and neglect the biggest, most important topics?
Last week, for example, it was announced that US researchers had created the first synthetic organism, called Synthia. Our species can now create life – not merely clone life, but create it.
Has there ever been a bigger, more radical technological innovation? I don’t think so. Not even nuclear fission has the potential for such far-reaching consequences for our small corner of the universe.
So where was this story in our newspapers and on our TV screens? It was an important story, certainly, but it generally failed to make the #1 item. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the UK media devoted more attention to the 2012 Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, than they did to Synthia.
It was the same in the recent general election campaign. The main parties and, I think, the public were simply not prepared to fully face into the ongoing £160 billion budget deficit facing the incoming government. Instead, the politicians preferred to focus their economic debates on just £6 billion of that amount, less than 4% of the full gap.
My take-out is that many of our biggest issues are just too uncomfortable, too conceptual and too difficult for us to fully appreciate and deal with.
Many businesses suffer from the same problem. Organisations and their executive teams often prefer to face into urgent, more manageable issues than the bigger, more far-reaching challenges and opportunities they face.
Recognising this fact immediately improves the chances that you will confront and deal with the big stuff, no matter how difficult.
After years of prevarication British Airway’s management, for example, is finally facing into its uncompetitive and unsustainable cost structure. The next step is for the company’s leaders to demonstrate the resolve and commitment required to drive through the necessary changes.
If the BA team need inspiration, they could do far worse than look at McDonalds. Since 2000 McDonald’s executive team hasdriven up sales, margins and shareholder returns by relentlessly focusing on a series of improvements across the company’s operating model, following their collective recognition that they had taken their “eyes off the fries”.
On their own, each of these initiatives has had little impact; together they have transformed the company’s fortunes. The starting point, however, was the leadership team’s identification of the company’s big issue, and its willingness to address it.
The bottom line
The scientific, ethical and legal issues and opportunities raised by Synthia will not go away, however much we ignore them. The same is true of the biggest issues and opportunities facing your business. You have no real option but to confront them. Only then will you find the solutions that will drive your future growth.
To find out more contact Stuart by clicking here or call +44-(0)1636-526111.