Routine and repetition in business

I recently sat down with a client to review the changes they had applied in their business over the past year after completely revisiting their business strategy and incorporating an approach geared towards building sustainable value. 

About halfway into the conversation he told me about the tools and systems they implemented to promote change. However, he could not help but mention a slight level of ‘confusion’ that had crept into his work. 

Even though he felt like he knew exactly what to do and had things in place to help him achieve them, something always bothered him at the end of the day. And this bothered me. So we investigated. 

As I inquired about his processes and how he went about his business, I made an observation I would like to share with you. It’s that of learning through repetition, growth and change. 

We learn best through repetition. Even better when we have a strong catalyst that we can connect the learning with: A deep impact, an emotional moment, a spark that is connected to the thought makes the data more memorable. Ethereal thoughts become chemical pathways and eventually deep physical crevasses and canyons. They are so meshed with our brain that they become a part of us. 

But this is only half the story. The other one is the human necessity for experiential growth. 

In our businesses, we cannot just acquire data, implement it and then apply it repeatedly like robots. We need the prospect of change and growth. Repetition without growth creates complacency. And complacency destroys human value. 

Even when we feel like we have it all figured out and we are on the path to creating real human value with our businesses because of the way we have everything set up, we must find the space for incremental change and adaptation. Not by questioning the principles that we installed, but by altering our processes ever so slightly. 

If you’ve ever taken one of my workshops, then you will remember the analogy of the apple tree. The root and the trunk are far less subjected to movement than the crown with its frail leaves and thin branches which wave in the wind. There is a lot of bending and twisting happening the further up you go. If the root was in constant motion, there would be no solid foundation for the tree to grow. 

It’s the same with our work: Our principles need to be installed with fervor through repetition and conviction, and then, cemented. But the processes that carry them out need our full awareness for necessary change. We constantly need to adapt to fluid surroundings by adjusting our culture, by reframing the way we speak to and act with our people, we need to scrutinize the value offerings we build, we need to revisit our goals and visions. 

But we cannot question our base. Repetition and inflexibility at the core of our business is not complacency, it is stability. Movability and constant adjustment at the top of our business is not volatility, it is incremental growth through adjustment. This is the lifeblood of our potential. 

I want you to constantly question how you carry out your actions. How can your promise for value find a better path? How can you serve better? What could you do differently today? What did you do differently yesterday? Stay awake to new paths in your work but grounded in your mission.

By OLIVIER EGLI

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