I recently came across a wonderfully insightful Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. The two protagonists were excitedly trying on some snorkelling goggles proclaiming that this newly acquired equipment would now enable them to stay underwater indefinitely, see all kinds of fish and collect shells. They then race off to try out this new ‘stuff’ and run into a…plastic paddling pool! The final caption has them sitting motionless with bemused expressions and Calvin declaring, “Well so far, this has been a major disappointment”

Diving into poolIt stuck me how often that is true within the corporate world when it comes to ‘shiny new things’ be that technology or strategic tools designed to help us conquer the world. This ‘thing’ that we have been waiting for but now have, will be what takes us to the next level. It will help us overcome all obstacles and will render us unstoppable.

Then we rush off and dive into a… ‘paddling pool’ – we change the equipment without thinking about the context.

You will have to determine exactly what represents your ‘snorkelling goggles’ and what is your ‘paddling pool’ but I am sure you will, without much effort, determine exactly what those are in your world!

Be careful about that next ‘big spend’ or that ‘single event’ that will turn things around…that ‘silver bullet’. In my experience there seldom is a ‘silver bullet’ not unless you are Jason Bourne or James Bond and let’s face it, they are two of a kind!

Maybe the real problem has to do with the environment, the context in which you are ‘playing’. Determining exactly what that context is will mean stepping back and asking different questions and once answered, might require some wholesale changes. Often it is easier just to convince ourselves that if only we had some new goggles everything will be different. And so we focus on the wrong thing and end up disappointed.

For most of us the context is continually changing and often in ways that is hard to fully comprehend given the speed and complexity involved. In response we hanker after new ‘goggles’ thinking that is what we need to see new things – only to end up disappointed.

It might be worth your while pausing for a moment and thinking through this comic strip analogy in the light of your own business. Doing so might just save you from disappointment!

Here are three questions to get you (and your team) started:

  • What is your ‘paddling pool’ and do you really need those goggles?
  • Have your ‘goggles’ created false expectations?
  • If you have new goggles, do you need to find a new ‘paddling pool’?

P.S. I have just finished an article for publication for a conference in Lausanne titled, ‘The Future of Banking: what’s next?’ and it occurs to me that the insights to be gleaned from Master Calvin and Hobbes would be both applicable and useful!  You can download this Future of Banking eBook here.

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