Act Yourself Into a New Way of Thinking

Simply Taking Action Can be the Best Way to Tackle Big Problems in Your Business
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Simply Taking Action Can be the Best Way to Tackle Big Problems in Your Business
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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post asking if your client service efforts were running on square wheels. Since then, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about how to make effective changes when it feels like all you can do to simply keep up.

In digging around the internet, scouring for useful information I could use to help me think about this problem in new ways, I found a quote that I love from an author by the name of Jerry Sternin. In a book titled “The Power of Positive Deviance,” Sternin states, “It's easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.”

While I have to admit that I haven’t read the book yet (based on the synopsis and reviews it’s definitely in my queue), I found the quote profound, even in the absence of additional context. That single sentence provides an effective framework for solving challenging problems in our business that require new ways of both thinking and acting.

When Thinking Breeds Inaction
We’ve all experienced the problems that come from trying to think ourselves into new ways of acting. Perhaps you’ve decided that your approach to service needs to be revamped. So you spent weeks, maybe even months, trying to piece together a strategy. The questions felt endless. What to include in your plans? How much to charge? When and how to present them to clients? What RSM tools to use? How about a ticketing system? And on and on... Eventually, your ambition gave way to the current demands of your business, and so the status quo persists, successful enough, but something short of the shining example of excellence you’d like it to be.

Or maybe you decided that it was time to give your operational plan a facelift, so you spent weeks drafting complex flowcharts or revamping job descriptions aimed at capturing every conceivable business scenario. After rethinking and redrafting countless times, these plans only succeeded in finding their way to the digital shelf, collecting cobwebs in some subfolder of a shared drive that no one in your company has visited in who knows how long.

The problem with these approaches is that you’re trying to generate action from thought. And while careful planning and thoughtful consideration are vital in many business decisions, paralysis by analysis is real and constant danger.

Less Talk, More Action
For fear of sounding accusatory, let me admit—as many of my current and former colleagues can attest—I am deeply prone to paralysis analysis. And while I still appreciate that my analytical streak can be a true asset in many scenarios, I’ve also learned that in many others it can be my biggest enemy. This lesson can apply to anyone, in any part of the business.

Often, the best results come from simply taking action. Accepting the fact that mistakes will be made, and courses subsequently corrected, it’s often the most effective strategy to simply push forward. Trying to optimize your project management process? Pick one new policy, procedure, or software tool and put it in play immediately. Trying to generate more sales leads? Find a local business networking group and attend your first meeting right away.

These are, of course, only a couple of simple examples, but they emblematic of challenges common to any number of areas in your business. From proposal generation tools, to product selection, to operational issues, there are difficult decisions around every corner, each requiring thoughtful planning and a deliberate approach.

In the time-and-resource-constrained environment so common to integration companies, however, making the wrong decision on any of the above is far less dangerous than not making a decision at all. Instead, allow yourself a fixed period of time to weigh your options, but set a deadline for a decision and force yourself to stick to it! Then forge ahead and let the chips fall where they may.

Learning What Works and What Doesn’t
Even the wrong decision can be invaluable because, as the quote states, taking action will teach you new ways of thinking much more quickly than thinking will teach you new ways of action. By making a choice and moving forward you will learn exactly what works, and perhaps even more importantly, what doesn’t.

So push forward with that new initiative you’ve been considering, be it a new approach to service, sales, project management, or operations. Trust that the results of your action will be new ways of thinking about the problem that you’re unlikely to discover during a research and planning phase, no matter how protracted. It may not feel right, and it most certainly won’t be comfortable. But those are just thoughts, and perhaps thoughts are the things that have been blocking you from progress all along.