(Consider this something of a “personal reflection” post…)
I’ve learned how to read a book, prepare a comprehensive handout, and deliver a synopsis/briefing presentation on the key content from the book. But, no matter who well I do my job, if I choose the wrong title, the wrong book…I’ve blown it. Choosing the right book is so very critical to what I do. It starts here for me.
What is so very critical to what you do? Where does it all start with you?
I speak to different audiences, about different issues. Among other audiences, I present Current Events presentations to residents of retirement communities. These are wonderful people; smart, wanting to stay engaged as long as they can to the larger world around them.
This is a frequent opening line: “we never really know what the most important news is.” Oh, it’s easy to know what the “most talked about” news is. But the most important – that can be far more elusive.
Take this week/month, for instance: is the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 really the most important news of the day/week/month/year? If you simply add up the hours of coverage, it wins hands down. (My favorite line so far, from a recent pundit round-up post: Has CNN covered the theory that CNN took the plane in order to give CNN something to talk about?).
I have a hunch that this story is not in fact the most important news of the hour. I could give you my opinion on what is more important … but, in reality, only the passage of time will reveal what news was most important, what news had the most significant, lasting impact.
(You want an example? What happened on Friday, September 28, 1928 qualifies as a genuinely important news event. Can’t quite remember what happened on that date? It was the day that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. I wonder what the headlines in the morning paper on the next day highlighted as the most important news of the day…).
So, time will tell – time does tell — what is most important. If only we had a genuine crystal ball…
Now, this process, this challenge translates into nearly every business planning and strategy discussion. What are the issues facing business today – your business — that are the truly important issues? What really matters?
I can give you a sense of what is written about quite often, in the best business books. Themes such as these:
• coping with the accelerating pace of change
• finding the right people to hire; putting together the best team
• making sure that you have a product or service that folks will want, and will pay money for
• being the first choice among your competitors
• the first choice for price
• the first choice for customer experience/customer service
Here’s the challenge. You will work on things; you will meet about issues. Working on the right things; meeting about the right issues – this is what leads to business success. Making the wrong call about what to meet about, and what to work on… can lead to genuine business failure. Putting in the time is a given. Putting in the time on the right things can make the difference between success and failure.
Call this process the process of setting the right “priorities.” Call it the challenge of majoring on the majors, not majoring on the minors.
But, getting it right… this is the constant challenge, isn’t it?