The titanic sunk because people arrogantly believed it couldn't sink.
The titanic sunk because people arrogantly believed it couldn't sink.

Sinking Ship? Listen Out For This One Word

The most accurate early warning sign to notice whether you’re still on track

More often than what I’d like I’m confronted with teams and individuals who started off with the best intentions but are so far off track that it’s hard to know where to start to get back on track. Usually, they’re taken by surprise when they finally realize that they are going in the wrong direction. Mostly, they simply didn’t see the end coming until it arrives. Always, they use one word very regularly in conversations.

How The Titanic Sunk

It’s like the Titanic, everyone having confidence, or maybe rather arrogance, in the strength of the seemingly unsinkable ship that they ignored the warning signs until it was too late.

It’s not that the warning signs weren’t there, it’s that no-one bothered to look and those who did, didn’t respond.

They waited until the problem couldn’t be ignored anymore before they tried to change direction, at which point the sheer size of the ship and the momentum it was going at caused the unavoidable catastrophic sinking of this once-thought unsinkable ship.

The business world is filled with Titanics following similar paths of destiny. Polaroid, a leader in instant photography, invested nearly half of the company’s R&D resources into moving towards digital as early as 1989, yet failed. Still in the world of photography, Kodak also failed to transition to digital, even they were far ahead the competition with the first digital camera already invented as early as 1976. The once hugely successful and preferred brand in film photography is now only a vague memory.

Blackberry, Motorola and Nokia are some of the examples that followed a similar road in the phone industry, with each being a leader at some time in the history of the mobile phone. Nokia, the Apple of the 90’s in terms of usability and the majority leader in the industry by far, failed to transition when smartphones arrived on the scene with the final death penalty with their collaboration with Windows Phone.

Xerox, Blockbuster, and Borders are some more examples of similar failures to transition, but no-one is exempt. It happens to big corporations, small ones, even individuals. And even though the reason for this distraction is easy enough to understand, few understand how to prevent it from happening or read the warning signs.

The similarities between these once big players? Failure to innovate. Failure to respond to the changing needs of the customers. Failure to listen to the complaints of the employees. Arrogant failure to admit that their seemingly invincible business models and products can be challenged. Failure to notice the warning sign in their daily vocabulary and listening for the one word that could prevent the catastrophe.

It’s the age of the choir, not the solo artist. You’re bound to fail if you’re trying to be the top dog making all the decisions. The once powerful leader of the pack is now the leader of a slow death, nothing more.

Innovation requires collaboration and the collective intelligence is what differentiates a successful company today from one in the past. It’s the companies with the best teams, the best relationships, the best collaboration who succeed.

The Red Flag

So what is this one word to look out for?


If you’re too busy with budgets and following processes to have time to recruit the talent you were looking for, you’re saying no to growth and success and you’re saying yes to broadening the gap between where you want to go and where you currently are, putting you even further back in the race.

If you’re too busy fixing errors to notice you’re building the wrong product, you’re investing money in waste. Literally, you’re paying intelligent resources to spend their time fixing something that no-one wants to use.

If you’re too busy to spend time with the customers to get their feedback, thinking you’re familiar with their needs and don’t need to clear with them product decisions before you implement them, you’re saying no to customer retention and yes to an increasing customer churn.

If you’re too busy replacing constantly churning employees with a outdated recruitment and performance appraisal process as more and more people leave faster and faster, and if you’re too busy to try and understand why or do something about it, you’re saying no talent retention and yes to mostly under-performers too comfortable to shift, waiting loyally with you until the ship crashes into the iceberg and holding your hand while you’re sinking into the big blue waters.

If you’re too busy optimizing your production or manufacturing line to notice the shifting trends in business models and customer needs, you’re only producing failures faster.

If you’re using the words “I’m busy” in response to anything, you’re choosing the iceberg. Whether it comes to personal relationships, work relationship or anything else.

It’s the age of the millenial and the playing field has changed. It’s the age of teal. It’s the age of collaborative intelligence. It’s the age of innovation. It’s the age of happiness and abundance.

The question is “Are you too busy to respond to the changes around you?”

Are you too busy to be productive? Are you too busy to care? Are you too busy to notice needs? Are you to busy to do something about it? Are you too busy to listen? To busy to take action? Too busy to connect with loved ones?

The regrets of the dying never includes wishing they spent more time at work or making more money or had more things or bigger titles. The regrets of the dying are wishing they spent more time with the ones they loved, wishing they said I’m sorry, wishing they told someone they loved them. So my final question to you, dear reader.

What are you busy with?

There are people out there waiting for you to ask them to collaborate with you. There are people out there waiting for you to respond to that email or lead. There are people out there waiting for you to say thank you for doing such a good job. There are people out there waiting for you to say I’m sorry.

How long are you going to keep them waiting? Will you react before you hit the iceberg?

Originally published on Medium: