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Monday, 30 May 2016

Do You Want Your Business to be Different? Then You Need to be Different!

In my youth my (pre-girls) passion was cricket and particularly Lancashire League cricket.  As a very ordinary off spin bowler, my role model was an extraordinary leg spin bowler called Tom.

He managed to deliver sumptuous leg breaks and gigantic googlies while bowling like a demented octopus, arms and legs flailing in all directions.  To say that batsmen had difficulty in picking his googly is an understatement.  In fact they seemed to have just as much difficulty in deciding which of his wildly gyrating extremities would be delivering the ball.

The consequence was, of course, that he developed a reputation for invincibility in the League and he went on to bigger and better things in his career.  Sadly it was cut short by physical problems but the memory remains.

So what is the point of this tale?  The point is that even though he had talent, enthusiasm, drive and commitment to the cause, his greatest attribute was that he was different.

I don’t mean different for the sake of it, or to make an impression.  I mean rather be different so as to impact on other people’s thinking, to help them to change in a positive sense and to stand out from the crowd which is becoming bigger and bigger.

Our education system from GSCE through A-levels, University and then post graduate studies, can lead to a standardisation of the eventual outcomes with an emphasis on conventionality.

Will and Kenneth Hopper in their wonderful book, The Puritan Gift, quote Professor Russell L Ackhoff formerly of the Wharton Business School in the USA as saying that there are three principal achievements of a business school education which are “to equip students with a vocabulary that enables them to talk about subjects they didn’t understand, to give students principles that would demonstrate their ability to withstand any amount of disconfirming evidence, and finally, to give students a ticket of admission to a job where they could learn something about management”.

These are very sage comments and comes from someone who knows what they are talking about.  I should point out that he waited until he had retired before voicing them at least in print.

In my long years as a CEO group Chairman in Vistage International I have come to realise that the people who are attracted to membership are those who are inherently different in attitude and behaviour.  Certainly it isn’t for everyone and some people find the experience daunting whereas those who take to it do so with vast enthusiasm and commitment.


It is no surprise to me that quite a few Managing Directors and CEO members of Vistage, at least in the UK, did not go to University but found their success through being different, through a burning desire to succeed, through humility and a voracious appetite for continuous learning.

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