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Business Savvy

We’ve been making mistakes as a company for the past 51 years. That’s not necessarily a banner ad we have running on our website homepage or a fact that we regularly trumpet to prospective clients. Yet it’s something that I draw a lot of confidence from and know is a competitive advantage for our organization.

Fifty-one years. That’s a long time. Probably most of or more than your lifetime if you’re reading this. The ancient Athenian Democracy rose and crumbled in less time. (Fun fact!) The sheer number of mistakes over those years is something that not everyone might want to glory in, but I find a peculiar satisfaction in pointing it out and explaining why it’s a good thing for us and our clients.

We aren’t making the same mistakes we made 51 years ago. We aren’t making the same mistakes we made 25 years ago. And hopefully, we’re not making the same mistakes we made 5 years ago. We’re always learning, and one of the best instructors in business and in life is failure. I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing failures, but I’ve also been spared of MANY because of the institutional memory of the other good folks on staff here and their cautionary wisdom. Someone did what you’re talking about doing 18 years ago… this is how it panned out. Might want to rethink the strategy. If your culture recognizes mistakes as an opportunity to learn and improve, then the longer you’re around, the better you’ll be.

Here are 3 quick thoughts on mistakes and what we can do to learn from them.

1. Remember that they happen. We’ve got to start with the obvious… but sometimes it doesn’t seem all that obvious. We regularly forget that we are imperfect creatures and that we make mistakes. Parenting toddlers serves as a constant reminder of this truth. If my 3 year-old son spills some milk out of his cereal bowl while he’s at the table and my initial reaction is anger, then I’ve forgotten that truth. The human element is real. Warren Buffet has locked his keys in his car and muttered under his breath about it. I can’t verify this… but I’m pretty sure it’s true. If not Warren than maybe Bill Gates or fill-in-the-blank successful person. Point is, we all do it. No matter how experienced, no matter how seasoned, it happens. And it’ll continue to happen.

2. Who do you want to be? Think of your life reading like a novel. What kind of character are you? What kind of character would you like to be? When a mistake has been made (yours or someone else’s) how do you want your character to respond? Most likely you have in your mind an ideal response of how someone should react to different mistakes you’ve made. Just about every day provides an opportunity to be that character you want to be. The angry dad, the mopey co-worker, the jealous boyfriend. When mistakes happen, how does your character normally respond? Now how would you like for them to respond?

3. Safeguards. Avoiding mistakes is preferred. I think there is consensus on that point. I’ve been told (many times) that doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. But how many times do we encounter a mistake that could have been so easily avoided had it been for a few simple safeguards? Technology can be a very helpful friend in this arena. Reminders, checklists, notifications… thanks to the little computer in your pocket you just don’t have much of an excuse anymore. Hopefully you work in a culture where your coworkers serve as living breathing safeguards as well. I’m so grateful we have a mix of talented people here who are naturally good with details or else I’d be lost. What safeguards are you using?

Three quick thoughts. There could be so many more.. and they wouldn’t all be quick. Your perspective on mistakes could very well determine the difference between a good company culture and a toxic one. Dare I go farther? It will dramatically impact your home, your relationships. We’re blessed in that most of the mistakes we will make in life won’t happen on a battlefield. Meaning it won’t be life or death. Remembering that might be a good start to learning from your mistakes.

Hmm… I think I’ve talked myself into putting that opening line to the article somewhere on our website homepage.

October 5, 2017

Innovate.

I think there is a tendency in most people to avoid risk and repeat what has been done before them. We look to history to steer us away from common mistakes and help us make decisions that will positively benefit the efforts we make today. By analyzing the past, we try to secure a very predictable and safe future. Rinse. Repeat. Success. I believe there is a great amount of wisdom in this approach to business, but it can only be part of our overall vision as leaders. Regardless of what field you find yourself in, you must realize that there is a frontier to explore, and failure to investigate this frontier could be crippling to the future of your organization. For those out there willing to face the new frontiers, I dare to call you innovators. You have left the comfort of what has been done and are willing to risk what you have to embark into the unknown. The unknown is scary, thrilling, devastating, and wonderful. If you’ve ever staked your livelihood or the livelihood of those you care about in the unknown, then you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, I invite you to join us. I’ll offer you two ways to start thinking about innovating:

1 Dedicated Dreaming

If you want to be an innovator, you have to make time to dream about the future of your industry. Block off at least an hour a week and spend it in space where you won’t be bothered. Start writing down what you want to see the future look like. This is not a time to guess the way the market will go or what new technology will influence your field. This is a time for you to tell the world what will happen. This is originality from you not your best prognostication. What are you doing differently or new that will influence or change the game? Personally, I own an entertainment company comprised mostly of escape rooms, and these are some of the questions I ask myself on a weekly basis: What aren’t people doing in my industry that I think would be awesome? If I had unlimited funding, what would I build and why? If I could evolve escape rooms into the next big form of entertainment, what would that look like? Go big on your dreaming. Leave the realistic and practical behind and write down the big dreams you imagine seeing one day. These dreams will help you identify key goals as you move to more practical applications of implementation. It can also be the most freeing and fun part of your week.

2 Synthesizing

Another way to conceptualize and think about innovation is through synthesizing. Synthesis is all about bringing together existing pieces to create something new. A big trap that a lot of people fall into is thinking that innovation means originality. In other words, if you didn’t come up with something that people haven’t seen before, then it’s not innovation. However, I personally believe that some of the greatest innovators out there are the ones who see existing parts that will fit together like nobody else does and are the first to put them together. I use synthesis all the time when I am creating a new escape room. I use a little of my clueing originality, mix it with some fun technology, and add an immersive environment to create an unforgettable experience for my players. I didn’t invent the technology. I don’t have the skills to build out the environment and a lot of the clues I come up with are versions of clues that have been around for years. BUT. I don’t know many people who can or are willing to take the time to package all these pieces together in one unique experience. I challenge you to look around your field and your workplace and put the pieces together that others have left around.

September 13, 2017

Business Quotes That Inspire

“I learned the value of hard work by working hard.”
– Margaret Mead

 

“Concentrate all your thought upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
– Alexander Graham Bell

 

“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.”
– Henry J. Kaiser

 

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”
– Henry Ford

 

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
– Vince Lombardi

 

August 11, 2017

Did You Know

 Venus and Possibly Uranus are the only planets that rotate clockwise.

 A bowling pin needs to tilt only 7.5 degrees to fall.

 One in every four Americans has appeared on TV at some point in their lives.

 In 1855, dentist Robert Arthur was the first to use gold to fill his patients’ cavities.

 You’re more likely to get stung by a bee on a windy day than in any other weather.

 The statue The Thinker by Rodin was originally entitled The Poet.

 The chemical pectin, found in ripe fruit, causes jam to set when cooling.

 The most abundant metal in the earth’s crust in aluminum.

 The state of Florida is bigger than England.

 Right-handed people tend to scratch themselves with their left hand. Vice-versa for lefties.

 None of the U.S. presidents was an only child.