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Disruption….The World Needs More Canada

by Kevin D. Crone

August 8, 2016
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Recently, I gave a one-hour presentation in Boston to a group of business people from around the world, who are part of a 104 year old company. I was asked to disrupt their thinking about how to grow in this chaotic business world.  In my presentation, I reviewed the 60’s, 70’s and every decade up to now, as to what it was like doing business then and now, in order to reveal changes, lessons, and how we had to adapt.  I also shared some of the lessons I learned from leading my organization and helping client business’ grow. Here are my thoughts from all the feedback I received and two conclusions.

1) Embrace the diversity of ideas from different types of people.
As a Canadian, I think a little differently.  We tend to be more open, listen and be engaged in different cultures, ideas and we tend to be reasonable about what they mean to us.  It’s really tough to create the future we want when we’re overwhelmed with chaos, challenges, and problems of difficult economic times.  If we let it, we can become over the top with cynicism, prejudice and stupid stories in our head.  Generally, Canadians appear to be laid back, but they’re also relatively sane about what to do. The entire structure of business has changed since 2008 and our practical saneness prepares us to examine and build on the strengths we have to work with and to recognize opportunities. To borrow a phrase, “The world needs more Canada”.

As I look back on all the changes we have adjusted to, brought on by the many recessions and other business challenges over the years, I think we were capable of innovating our way forward because of our listening.  In the eighties, when things seemed to be stable, it was easier to repeat and improve on what worked as we always slightly improved our way forward.  It took some kind of shock to wake us up.  Mine came when I filled a notebook in 1989 with the answers to questions I asked of 26 major clients. I didn’t realize what true listening meant until I locked myself up in a log cabin and studied and trended what they said, instead of quickly concluding from my judgmental made-up mind. Our team dug into what they really meant. That listening created a new context for my business, new offerings and processes that I taught to people in my industry throughout the world.  It brought in millions to my friends around the world.

To innovate is to allow yourself to listen.  To suspend all prejudgements and we Canadians are capable of doing that.  Listen to your customers.  Get to know what they’re going through, where they’re trying to go, their difficulties and match up how you can help them get there. You will win if you help your customers win.

2) There is a difference between being a human being and being human.
Canada appears to be like one small town. We say hello and mean it.  We put ourselves out for others, especially those in need. Business is usually impersonal, ruthlessly competitive and we can easily forget who we are and who our customers are.  If you want to go fast, go alone – if you want to go far – go together.  The underlying, quiet background of Canadians is to respect, honour, care and help.  When an organization taps into those values, Canadians perform.  Money and power alone won’t work on us for long.  You’re at your best when you’re yourself.

Canadians take for granted our culture of caring.   Yes, we might appear to be over courteous and nice, but it fits what’s needed to bring people together on behalf of any mission, role or job.  Canadians are apt to be sincerely ready to put themselves out for a business especially when a team is needed to change.  Caring and team performance go hand in hand.  It’s who we are.  Again, the world needs more Canada.

I could go on with so much more from my one hour talk that was an accumulation of 52 years in the business of helping individuals and companies grow, but for now, let’s examine these two core principles that I see worked in my organization and in many others.  They’re inherent in all of us which makes it easier to wake up, disrupt what is going on and to examine what to do.  I reminded my worldwide audience that thinking is the source of talking and talking is the source of action.   A little Canadian type thinking and listening can create new insights, new perspectives and new conversations about our customers needs.  I mean not just having thoughts from the past and call it thinking. That’s just having thoughts. I mean really listening, seeing what’s going on and starting new conversations about what could be done. Any team could do that. Yes, we all get drowned in our activities and problems but, as Canadians, we pull ourselves back and really listen.  How about you? Are you sure about what’s really going on in your markets and your customer’s markets? Finding this out is the key to prosperity.

Engage your team in this conversation. Let them figure out what it means.  Fill your black book, so to speak. Help them create actions and strategies. It’s the best way to create natural commitment and answers. Yes, it takes leadership to allow others to create what is next but we all know how maddening it is to try to do it by ourselves. Regardless, it’s what Canadians, and all people, appreciate and need.  How about you? What kind of innovative conversations are going on at your place?

It has been said that it’s tough to find a Canadian’s start button.  Yes, it may appear that way. We’re a little less enthusiastic and less aggressive, but the start button is there. We just have to locate it and we usually do when it counts.

I know I’m bragging here about being Canadian, but every now and then, even we do that.  After investing time in reading this mentor this morning:

  • What is important to you?
  • Now where is that button?

Have a great week!

Kevin D. Crone
Chairman, Dale Carnegie Business Group
kdcrone@dalecarnegie.ca or 905-826-7300 / 1-800-361-2032