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Put Your Ear to the Ground: Engaging More Directly

Put Your Ear to the Ground: Engaging More Directly


    Get your ear to the ground.

    This approach has been called different things but commonly is summarized as getting close as possible to the interface of the product and producer or consumer. Famous practitioners include Bill Hewlett and David Packard of HP who popularized “management by walking around.” The same approach can be used in your personal and professional life to help you gain fresh perspective on old problems, sniff out issues before they become wildfires, and continue to innovate and create while on a schedule.

    Case Study: Lululemon — From the Folding Table to the Chalkboard

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    It is possible for many people to not know about Lululemon. Yet for those who practice yoga, the brand has risen rapidly in popularity and demand. Lululemon has become a rising star in a multibillion dollar market with comfortable, attractive yoga and athletic apparel. Chief Executive Christine Day attributes her success partially to eschewing conventional market research. Rather than relying on focus groups, website tracking, or customer purchase profiles, the company has designed their stores to eavesdrop on their customers. Folding tables are placed not out of sight, but immediately adjacent to fitting rooms. Sleeves too long? Crotch too tight? Chances are employees will be privy to that information. To allow customers to provide more direct feedback, a large chalkboard is propped up against a wall for shoppers to comment on existing products as well as wish for new ones.

    Take advantage of opportunities to talk face-to-face with people

    When people don’t feel threatened, rushed, or dismissed they are more likely to voice their concerns or frustrations. Rather than maintaining a course towards an iceberg, addressing conflict can prevent them from getting bigger. Likewise, allowing people to voice their honest thoughts can help generate consensus and group buy-in of a proposal even if initial reactions are less than supportive. For example, instead of email-soliciting money from your coworkers to pay for the office water cooler, approaching people known to “mooch” may generate enough guilt or raise awareness to modify their behavior. They may even bring up unrelated but important issues to them which you can support to enlist their cooperation. (“Yes, I’d be happy to remind the other people in the office to not leave old coffee grinds and stale coffee in the drip machine. Having bottled water and taking care of the break room makes work that much more bearable.”)

    Actually experience the good or service you provide

    Every job in the world provides either a product or service to others. It’s too easy to get entrenched in your perspective. Take time this week to actually use your product or experience the service you provide. Personally speaking, as a physician it is incredibly eye-opening and humbling to experience the hospital as a patient. Another example is the Lululemon sales representative who loves a particular brand of pants for the slimming and firming effect they provide without creating embarrassing wrinkles and lines.

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    Put yourself in different shoes to solve complex problems

    Likewise, when you can’t wrap your head around a problem try to approach it from the perspective of someone else. What would the janitor suggest to reduce operating expenses? Does the consumer really value the promotional mailings you provide? What has your boss focused on for other business cycles or projects? Even better is to directly approach the different people involved to solicit their input.

    Case Study: Levi’s Jeans — A Hot Idea from Hot Pants

    Walter Haas — one-time CEO of Levi’s Jeans — stumbled upon a problem he didn’t know about while sitting next to a campfire in the 1940’s. At the time copper rivets were placed at stress points like the crotch area to provide extra strength. Unfortunately, they also conducted heat efficiently and caused quite a few unpleasant campfire mishaps. After being burned, Haas promptly removed the copper rivets. Inspired, he went on to also cover exposed rear pocket rivets to minimize scratch damage to saddles and school chairs in response to complaints by cowboys and schoolteachers.

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    Adopt a new role with your family, friends

    Appreciation is like water to a desert plant. In the interpersonal realm, it’s been established that men and women commonly cheat because of emotional disconnection which can spring from being unappreciated. Have you taken the time recently to realize what your friends and family do for you? Take the initiative to wash dishes, walk the dog, take out the trash, drive the carpool, or organize that birthday party. It may be difficult to do the tasks we naturally avoid, but realize that you are gaining new understanding of your relationships. Gratitude makes life infinitely richer.

    Go where the water is fresh

    In marketing, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of popular trends and ideas. Just like how you need to stay in front of the wave while surfing, you want to develop your ability to sense energy and direction from other people, events, and activities. One way you can do this is by maintaining your hobbies. Do things that excite you and you’ll find that even on a tight schedule, you can work with more energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. Refrain from “dichotomizing” your life into disparate spheres. Try to bring as much of who you are into what you are doing at the moment.

    As you take a closer step to your work, relationships, and the things which make you tick, I hope that you’re able to accomplish more, improve existing relationships, solve difficult problems, and sustain creativity.

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    (Photo credit: Young Man Hearing Sounds via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 7, 2018

    10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

    10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

    Failure occurs everyday, in school, jobs, housework, and within families. It is unavoidable, irritating and causes pessimism.

    While the thought of flinging your hands in the air and walking away is all too appealing, take a second to connect with the people who have been there and survived.

    Here are 10 famous failures to success stories around the world that will inspire you to keep going and achieve greatness:

    1. J.K. Rowling

    J.K.-Rowling

      During a Harvard commencement speech, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling outlined the importance and value of failure.[1]

      Why? Simply because she was once a failure too.

      A few short years after her graduation from college, her worst nightmares were realized. In her words,

      “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

      Coming out of this failure stronger and more determined was the key to her success.

      2. Steve Jobs

      steve-jobs-31

        The now revolutionary Apple started off with two men in a garage. Years later we all know it as a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees.

        Yet, almost unbelievably, Steve Jobs was fired from the very company he began.

        The dismissal made him realize that his passion for his work exceeded the disappointment of failure. Further ventures such as NeXT and Pixar eventually led Jobs back to the CEO position at AppleJobs said in 2005:

        “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

        Lost your job today? Keep kicking and you could be just like this guy!

        3. Bill Gates
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          Bill Gates was a Harvard dropout. He co-owned a business called Traf-O-Data, which was a true failure.[2]

          However, skill and a passion for computer programming turned this failure into the pioneer of famous software company Microsoft, and the then 31-year-old into the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

          In his own words:

          “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

          This isn’t to say that dropping out of Harvard will make you into a billionaire, but maybe that shiny degree isn’t worth as much as the drive and passion to succeed.

          4. Albert Einstein
          0

            The word ‘Einstein’ is associated with intelligence and synonymous with genius. Yet it is a famous fact that the pioneer of the theory of general relativity, Albert Einstein himself, could not speak fluently until the age of nine. His rebellious nature led to expulsion from school, and he was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School.

            His earlier setbacks did not stop him from winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. After all, he believed that:

            “Success is failure in progress.”

            To this day, his research has influenced various aspects of life including culture, religion, art, and even late night TV.

            Just because you haven’t achieved anything great yet, doesn’t mean you can’t be an Einstein yourself.

            5. Abraham Lincoln

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              Failing in business in 1831, suffering a nervous breakdown in 1836, defeated in his run for president in 1856, Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to rejection and failure. Rather than taking these signs as a motivation for surrender, he refused to stop trying his best.

              In this great man’s words:

              “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

              Lincoln was elected in 1861 as the 16th President of the United States of America.

              The amount of rejection you receive is not a defining factor. Success is still within your reach.

              6. Michael Jordan

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                “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

                This quote by retired basketball legend Michael Jordan in a Nike advertisement speaks for itself.

                It would be an easy misconception that Jordan’s basketball skills revolve around natural talent. In fact, in his earlier years,  basketball coaches had trouble looking past the fact that Jordan didn’t reach the minimum height. It was years of effort, practice, and failure that made the star we know today.

                7. Steven Spielberg

                217307-steven-spielberg

                  Regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, Steven Spielberg is a familiar household name. It is surprising to realize therefore that the genius behind Jaws and E.T. had poor grades in high school, getting him rejected from the University of Southern California three times.

                  While he was in college, he caught the eye of executives at Universal, who signed him as a television director in 1969. This meant that he would not finish his college degree for another 33 years.

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                  Perseverance and acceptance of failure is the key to success, after all.

                  “Even though I get older, what I do never gets old, and that’s what I think keeps me hungry.”

                  Bad grades in high school aside, there is no questioning the genius involved.

                  To date, Spielberg has directed 51 films and has been awarded three Oscars.

                  8. Walt Disney

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                    Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney dropped out of school at a young age in a failed attempt at joining the army.[3] One of his earlier ventures, Laugh-o-Gram Studios, went bankrupt due to his lack of ability to run a successful business. He was once fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.”

                    Yet today, The genius behind Disney studios is responsible for generations of childhood memories and dreams. From Snow White to Frozen, Disney will continue to entertain the world for generations to come.

                    The logic behind this is simple:

                    “We don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

                    9. Vincent Van Gogh
                    vincent_van_gogh

                      During his lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh suffered mental illness, failed relationships, and committed suicide at the age of 37.

                      He only ever sold one painting in his life, pinning him a failure as an artist. However that did not put a damper on his enthusiasm and passion for art.

                      He would never know that years and years after his death he would become known as a key figure in the world of post-impressionism, and ultimately, one of the greatest artist that ever lived.

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                      He would never know that he became a hot topic in art classes and his image was going to be used in TV, books and other forms of popular culture.

                      In the words of this great, but tragic man:

                      “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

                      10. Stephen King

                      01-Stephen-King-Rags-to-Riches-Celebs-1

                        As a paranoid, troubled child, tormented by nightmares and raised in poverty, it is no surprise that Stephen King grew up to the title: “Master of Horror”.[4]

                        An addiction to drugs and alcohol were his mechanisms to cope with the unhappiness he felt with his life. The frustration he felt towards multiple rejections by publishers in combination with illicit substances caused him to mentally contemplate violence towards his own children.

                        These intense emotions were those that he focused onto his writing. And that’s why he said:

                        “We make up horros to help us cope with the real ones.”

                        Writing became his new coping mechanism, and this is how the master author we know today grew to success.

                        Fail more often in order to succeed

                        Like Albert Einstein said, failure really is just success in progress. If you’d rather not to fail, you will probably never succeed.

                        Success comes from moments of frustrations when you’ll be most uncomfortable with. But after you’ve gone through all those bitter times, you’ll become stronger and you’ll get closer to success.

                        Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, start failing, and start failing often; that’s how you will succeed.

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                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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