If you’ve ever tried to sculpt a clay figure in the middle of a fog, then you have the unique insights necessary for understanding the role of business during an economic recovery. Something out of the ordinary is to be expected. Whether it leads to newly discovered industries that emerge from an industrial cocoon, the touching up of an established work of art or a complete departure from the tried and true, the sculpture being formed still has business as the base upon which success can be shaped by so many contributors. The infusion of stimulus dollars, bailout loans and restructuring mandates are only tools in the hands of sculptors familiar with only one style of creating. While the cookie cutter style of sculpting served the business community in an efficient and profitable manner, much of its contemporary success can be attributed to operating without an obstructed view of the goal. When the fog settles in, it requires a different approach to sculpting.
What does any artist do when a certain approach to success no longer has a waiting audience? What does any business do when a certain approach to success no longer has a waiting market? The business, the artist and everything needed to create a different approach will have to change. In some cases it might be a slight change (i.e. outsource the payroll system) or a major change (i.e. discontinue a long-standing, but no longer profitable brand), but the approach has to change perception and make a profit. It is at this point that new tools must be aligned with new skills, and a different way of thinking about the end result. The individual artist is now faced with a transitional dilemma. There is comfort and security in holding on to the skills that have allowed for the steady creation of products and services that were the foundation of individual success. Like any pair of bell-bottom jeans that should have been discarded, you hang on believing that a time will come when they will be needed again. It is an immobilizing belief that a certain style grounded in a certain time will continue if you will it so. Style and skills are unified around a set of life experiences and rarely abandon one another during times of critical change. For example, the business community sculpted a world in which personal style, when writing in short hand, endured a long and profitable existence. At what point does the master short hand sculptor recognize that there must be a transition to computer skills? The recognition that a change is needed poses the dilemma in which a new artistry takes shape or the seduction of the previous art form takes over.
There is a familiar Chinese proverb that states, “May you live in interesting times.” Toward that end, the proverb has been accurate and insightful in its present day observation. However, there is a less familiar, rarely quoted proverb from the North End in the city of Detroit that asserts, ‘May you live through interesting time.” Toward that end, the lesser know proverb has implications for both business and individuals for how we sculpt a form in a fog of economic recovery. New skill sets, redesigned tools and broadened points of view are the essential factors that, when used in combination, signal the beginning of individual transition and business transformation. The energy generated by the collective application of new skills and broadened focus will generate the breeze.
By guest blogger, Lee Meadows, PhD