I felt the need to get some fresh air and sunshine today in Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs. After a couple of weeks of hot weather, this evening was a very comfortable 77 degrees. So, I aired up my Schwinn’s tires and took to the paved trails by the house going for about a 10-mile ride.
What a great decision; the ride was both enjoyable and invigorating.
When we were kids, a bike was our way of life. It was more than how you got from Point A to Point B – everyone had one different from everyone else, it was usually either second-hand or purchased off the rack at a department store, and it was how you found and rolled with your pack anywhere in the neighborhood. Mainly we stuck to the sidewalks and the streets; I never really did any kind of off-road biking unless you consider riding Marquette Park’s narrow dirt grooves. Even though I had either a Huffy BMX-style bike or a mountain bike, we didn’t ride through forest preserves.
Even today, while I finally have a Schwinn that is built for the rugged trails and berms the suburbs have to offer, I’m simply not that adventurous – though I have tried a couple of times.
Today I struggled to find a topic on which to write during this blog challenge of mine. However, my ride today offered me a little inspiration. Other blogs and articles have been written to liken a bike ride to business. I thought I’d do my “spin” on it here.
Have the Right Vehicle
Historically, my family has always had bikes which were either purchased second-hand, received as hand-me-downs, won in a contest, or bought on sale at a department store. Even the Miyata street bike I had was purchased from a coworker and was the most expensive bicycle I ever owned at about $300 or so.
When I went for a ride with my son’s Scout Troop – my first-ever true mountain-bike trail adventure – I took my eldest son’s Walmart bike and my middle son rode his Mongoose. These were not the right tools for this job. We have never completed a bike ride with these vehicles because they weren’t built to withstand the rigors of off-road venturing.
I find often the same is true with companies’ MarCom tech stack. Many companies are ill equipped to create, contain, and distribute the content that will drive their business home. They either fail to implement tools such as email marketing or marketing automation systems, or they adopt subpar technologies which will not allow them to scale.
Test and Learn Your Limits
On that first trail ride, I fell face first several times, and I even accidentally jumped a berm hit a tree, and bent the bike and the wheel. I was lucky not to have broken any bones.
I’m grateful for the lessons I learned from that trek, but I’ve learned the limit of my competency riding on challenging bike trails.
In business, you need to take risks. Every action has risk. When a risk pay off, celebrate the win and use that to develop consistent gains. When things don’t pan out, learn from the experience. Every system and process has constraints. One of the things I enjoy in my career is pushing on those constraints, but working within them – that’s part of being an Integrator… to be able to make things happen with the resources, KSAOs, and boundaries you have within the realm of best practices and learned lessons.
Be Ready to Shift Gears
When riding a bicycle, you shift gears to maintain a steady pace. You downshift to add more torque to help you climb hills, and you shift the gears up as speed increases to maintain velocity with ease.
HIstorically, when I go into an organization as a director or a consultant, I help organizations make and navigate change. Organizational Change Management (OCM) is one of the reasons why I am very much interested in studying and applying I-O Psychology. I find that being able to lead change effectively creates value for the organization and subsequently can produce revenue gains and/or reductions in waste.
However, I don’t simply change for the sake of change. The Visionary of the company sees a path for growth. I tend to be able to see what may be stunting that growth and it’s my job to help make things better and acculturate the organization to a new and better way of doing things. The change is intended to help the organization maintain steady systems which yield stronger production.
I think I’m going to stop here with these thoughts. There are a few more which have come to mind, but they haven’t quite crystallized into something I can express yet in words. I think I’ll write another blog in the near future to discuss some other parallels between biking and business.