Seth Godin: Cycle worse, cycle better

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Business, Lifestyle, Summons
Tags: , ,

The downward spiral is all too familiar. A drinking problem leads to a job lost, which leads to more drinking. Poor customer service leads customers to choose other vendors, which of course leads to less investment in customer service, which continues the problem.

Your boss has a temper tantrum because he’s stressed about his leadership abilities. The tantrum undermines his relationship with his peers, which of course makes him more stressed and he becomes more likely to have another tantrum. An employee is disheartened because of negative feedback from a boss, which leads to less effort, which of course leads to more negative feedback.

Most things that go wrong, go wrong slowly.

The answer isn’t to look for the swift and certain solution to the long-term problem. The solution is to replace the down cycle with the up cycle.

The (too common, obvious, simple) plan is to live with the cycle that caused the problem instead (“When I get stressed, I freeze up, so I need to figure out how to avoid getting stressed”). The simple plan puts the onus on the outside world to stop contributing the input that always leads to the negative output. That’s just not going to work very well.

The more difficult but more effective alternative is to become aware of the down cycle. Once you find it, understand what triggers it and then learn to use that trigger to initiate a different cycle.

“This is my down cycle. What will it cost me to replace it with a different one? Who can help me? What do I need to learn? How do I change my habits and my instincts?”

This works for organizations as well as individuals. The fish restaurant that as sales go down, borrows money to buy ever fresher fish instead of cutting corners that will lead nowhere good. Or the ad agency the follows a client loss not with layoffs, but with hiring of even better creative staff.

Slowing sales might lead to more investment with customer service, not less. Decreased grades might lead to more time spent on enthusiastic studying, not less.

This is incredibly difficult. But identifying the down cycle and investing in replacing it with the up cycle is the one and only best strategy. The alternative, which is to rationalize and defend the cycle as a law of nature or permanent habit, is tragic.

 

Seth Godin

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Comments
  1. interesting read…understanding why a circle is failing and reinventing the circle for better performance is key to success….i love it.

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