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How do you know what you know?

Many of us “know” things about our business. We know what customers want – we know what role technology can play in our business or service – we know the best way to manage our business and to deliver our product or service. How do we know all of this? Might we be mistaken?

Maybe we were right before but the market has changed?  The business landscape is littered with the skeletons of businesses who would have claimed they knew.  It is easy to think about some well known and much quoted examples like Polaroid and subsequently Kodak who seriously under-estimated developing trends in the business of photography and the capture and dissemination of images.  There is a temptation to look at these spectacular collapses and to tut-tut at the lack of vision of these businesses and the “obvious” trends they ignored. I would never make those mistakes!

Really?  What are the trends which are happening in your business today?  What new services are your customers looking for that are alternatives to buying what they currently buy from you? What ways are your existing competitors changing what it is they do?  Do you know if there are new companies offering solutions which could undermine you?

One of the key ways we have as the owners and managers of businesses of staying on top of all of this is to constantly test what we “know” to be true.  We can start this by really talking to our customers and trying to understand why it is that they do business with us and not our competitors.  But we also need to talk to other business people, both from our own sector and crucially from other sectors as well.  How can we expect to learn about a new development which has the potential to transform our way of doing business if we only talk to people who do business our way?

We can engage in some form of structured approach to learning which will open our thoughts to the ideas of others and how they do business.  We can open our thinking to how others see the future and what might be possible.  The opportunity to spend some time thinking about our business and the threats and opportunities which face it surely puts us in a better place to make the changes which give us a chance to prosper?

By adopting a frame of mind which questions what we do and how we do it in a consistent way improves our chances greatly that what we know remains valid and productive.  Challenging the myths of how business “should” be done opens the possibility for radical thinking!

To find management development programmes designed for small and medium sized businesses, which will challenge you to think and which include peer to peer learning across a wide range of industry contexts, visit www.managementworks.ie.

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