Avoiding ‘rearview mirror syndrome’

The following blog is made up of the best bits of editorial, articles and blogs that I’ve come across in my 38 years of working life, 30 of which I spent as my own boss at a very successful Creative Agency.

I thank all those that have inspired me to make (and write!) my own observations on these subjects. I now want to switch my focus to helping the next generation find the success that I did, and hopefully avoid a few of the pitfalls I didn’t!

Imagine yourself driving a car and looking only at your rearview mirror. It’s almost certain that you’re going to crash very quickly. It would be much safer (and wiser) to look at the road ahead rather than the one behind.

Why is it that so many businesses look only at the past to try and inform the future? Whilst looking back can play a role to some extent, it should by no means be a prevailing atmosphere or attitude.

There appears to be a recurring trend among marketing agencies and many businesses out there to conduct market research through data-driven decisions, with some calling this ‘big data’. It’s research that leaves you like a rabbit in the headlights, without seeing what you need to.

‘Big data’ can be overwhelming. It’s a technique which captures significantly more information than is needed, and leaves you in a state of paralysis, excessively analysing fine details which will have little bearing on the big picture.

Agencies and businesses conducting this market research often stop innovating, mimic the competition and play it safe. This leaves your communication with customers safe, uninteresting and bland, with the strong likelihood that you’ll lose them altogether.

Your current generation of customers will drift away and the next generation of potential customers will bypass you. It’s game over.

Moving ahead:

You need to have your eyes on the horizon, and beyond this too. If you’re not updating, changing, or upgrading over 30% of your products and services every three years, then you’re actually moving backwards.

So what can you do to stop this? The first step is straightforward and essential:

Step 1 - Organise your data:

Get a simple dashboard which brings all of the data you collect together into an easy-to-digest format. This is what will highlight the trends you need to see - information that will keep your business going for the next 12 months.

Step 2 - Look outside:

Spend at least 10% of your time reading about the best businesses in their fields - not yours. The best buyers, the best manufacturers, the best tech companies. What do they know and do that you can bring to your organisation? Taking this on board will leave you with a significant advantage over your competitors.

Step 3 - Listen:

Talk, listen, listen some more and then listen some more.

There are faint signals out there which will give you a glimpse into what’s coming ahead of you and ensure your organisation is agile, innovative and already there in the future, whilst your competitors are still looking in their rearview mirror!

Look forwards, not backwards. Look outside of your business, and outside of your industry. And listen to the signs - this is how you prepare for, and embrace, what’s on the road ahead of you.

Growth, InnovationJonathan Leafe