I realize I am showing my age with this analogy, but if you are over thirty, or maybe forty years old, you may recall a children’s TV character named Gumby. Gumby was a flexible green clay animation who had many fun adventures with his horse called Pokey. The characteristic I remembered and admired most about Gumby was his unique ability to bend and contort into many different shapes.
As business owners, we typically fall into one of two mindsets. We either operate from a place where we bend, contort, and remain flexible, or we approach daily life and business in a rigid manner. To better understand the difference between these two mindsets, let’s look at how these words are defined.
Flexibility - having the ability to bend easily or without breaking. The quality of being easily adapted or of offering many options. The ability and willingness to adjust one’s thinking or behavior.
Rigidity - the quality or state of stiffness or inflexibility. An aspect of the personality characterized by resistance to change.
When it comes to business, flexibility means being open to new ideas and concepts and juggling multiple projects at the same time without getting derailed when conditions rapidly change. The degree a business owner embraces these situations can potentially impact their ability to capitalize on new opportunities.
Here are a couple of ways we can develop a flexible and adaptable mindset:
1. Creative Thinking. Start to explore new ways of accomplishing your business goals by taking time for creative thinking. Early in the history of Microsoft, Bill Gates made a point of taking two weeks out of every year to get away to think and create. Maybe we can’t afford two weeks a year, but to develop flexible and adaptable mindsets we need to set aside regular times to think creatively about our business.
2. Embrace Ambiguity. The world around us changes quickly and business owners need to change with the times, even when the path ahead seems uncertain. Some business owners will revert to a more rigid or resistant style of leadership when their market is unstable.
Let’s look at another example. Years ago, the multinational company, Nokia, found themselves in a place where the mobile phone market was rapidly changing. Instead of being flexible and embracing the ambiguity, they stayed the course with their current technology. Failing to change resulted in Nokia going from having a 51% stake in the global mobile phone market to 3.5% , in just a few short years.
There have been several occasions in my consulting career where it was critical I embraced situations with a flexible mindset. For example, I can recall an instance where a client in the natural resource sector asked for a different service than what we provided. We had learned from experience it was important not to give an outright “no we don’t do that” answer to clients. Instead, our response was shaped in a way where we promised to investigate their request and determine if we could provide a viable solution. Nine times out of ten our flexible and adaptable mindsets paid off and we were able to accommodate the client’s request.
In this situation, we had two significant results. First, the needs of the client were met, and second, we developed a new service along with an additional revenue stream. If we had responded in a rigid and inflexible manner, we would have missed out on a significant growth opportunity.
Ultimately, flexible mindsets mean we will be open and ready to embrace new approaches, markets, technologies, and partnerships when they arise. If we stick with a single business plan and only rely on what’s worked in the past, it’s likely we will miss out on some of our greatest opportunities.
BE LIKE GUMBY – STAY FLEXIBLE!