Dan Stroot

Only Usain Bolt Looks at the Clock

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1 min read

When you watch the 100 meter dash you notice runners sneak glances around. They watch each other while they run. They want to know where are in the pack. Usain Bolt doesn't. He looks at the clock, not the other runners. Why?

Usain Bolt looks at the clock because he’s used to being ahead of everyone else. It is because he is really only competing against himself.

When trying to introduce innovation I often get asked a frustrating question. The question is "Who else is doing/using this?" or "How does [name any other company in your industry] do it?".

It seems in order to make a decision some people want to know what everyone else is doing first. This line of questioning is almost inevitable in a large organization but it makes me cringe when I hear it.

Think about it for a moment. This isn't the recipe for leadership and innovation. This is the recipe for risk avoidance and going with the herd. It is the runners in the pack looking around to see where everyone else is.

PROTIP: You can't define your metrics in terms of others. In other words "We want to be in the top quartile" means you are just in the pack watching everyone else. Define your goals simply, directly, and on your own terms: "Our margin will be 20%" or "We will bring in $1 Billion new sales" and then watch your scoreboard.

If you really want to lead then you should only look at your targets and your scoreboard because you should assume everyone else is behind you.

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