Differing from sceptics or cynics, being productively paranoid encourages you to look at your environment, rivals, industry, trends, new legislation or changing market conditions. What could go wrong? What could change?
10xers are rarely comfortable and are always prepared for the future. Even in their greatest success, they are asking themselves – “What happens if things change?”, “Where will my next rival come from?”, “What if there’s an economic downturn that wipes all of our shares?”.
They don’t dwell on this as a means to develop some serious anxiety and sleepless nights, but channel these concerns into strategic, actionable preparation plans.
Spending time to understand this clearly will mean that in turbulent times you can rely on your research to quickly respond and identify new opportunities.
An example of this is SouthWest Airlines.
In changing times and trying to navigate a tumultuous competitive environment, SouthWest airlines CEOs and directors put together a ten step document on operating procedures.
These procedures weren’t in any way groundbreaking.
They simply outlined the expectations, processes and procedures of the company.
For example, these included commandments like – “Use 737 aircraft”, and “Stay out of food services”.
What SouthWest Airlines were doing in this process was approaching changing and uncertain times with specific, methodical and consistent outlines.
They strictly followed that list with rigorous self-discipline, and despite only changing 20% of company operational procedures in the development of the list, it was the consistency in persevering with the commandments that demonstrated a specific behaviour of 10x companies.
“10x companies are experts at developing specific, measurable, consistent operating procedures. They base their lists on the huge amount of empirical evidence they collect, knowing what procedures will work and which will not…” – Jim Collins, Great By Choice.
There are three primary areas of paranoid productivity:
1. Build cash reserves and buffers – on average, 10x companies hoard huge reserves of cash – up to three to ten times higher than their competitors, according to Jim Collins.
2. Prepare for unexpected events and bad luck before they happen – although many people believe the old adage “there’s no such thing as luck, only hard work…” 10x companies do believe there is a strong element of luck or ‘right time – right place’ when it comes to success (something we’ll come back to later on).
3. Actively bound and manage risk – A way to begin preparing a productively paranoid company is to ‘zoom out, then zoom in’, to explicitly assess both internal and external factors that may negatively disrupt a company.
Zooming out consists of seeing the bigger picture. It’s the ability for a leader to observe business climates, changes in industries, and new opportunities or risks on the horizon. It’s the ability to fast forward 5, 10 or 20 years predict the health of the company, and what might influence that.
A step by step process of assessing something that may warrant paranoid productivity includes:
Step One: Sense a change in conditions.
Step Two: Assess the time frame
Step Three: How long before the business is at risk?
Step Four: Assess with rigor
Step Five: Decide – do we disrupt our plans? If so, how?
Once you have zoomed out, it is fundamental that you then connect your observations to what is currently being done in your company.
This allows greater adaptability. We talk a lot about EQ (which is definitely important) but looking at your team and organisations AQ ‘adaptability quotient’ is also critical in our fast moving, ever changing world. AQ tests how you manipulate things given a constraint to achieve a certain goal.
Good questions you can review to assist build these competencies are:
Looking at things with a beginners mindset and having the ability to ‘unlearn things’ will be an important skill set to learn and develop Adaptability Quotient within your organisation.
The idea of ‘luck’ is not just heavily relying on the notion that things will just fall into place at the right time without any form of exertion or effort.
10x companies know there is a small element of luck and perfect conditions that contribute to the success of a company, however they have a differing relationship with luck in comparison to other competitors.
A few things 10x companies do differently include:
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