Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How To Avoid The One Hit Wonder Trap

I often talk about creating breakthroughs. While it is fulfilling to accomplish a breakthrough, what do you do once the breakthrough is realized? Too often the thought is to do more, better or different of the same thing. This could be a strategy that has a high probability of getting you stuck in a rut.

For example, in the early 1900s, Henry Ford declared most households would own a car. At that time, automobiles took 9 months to build by hand and the cost to the consumer was around $1000. In a country where the average annual income was about the same, cars were still for the wealthy. However, Ford’s assembly line made it possible to build a car in 9 days. In 1906, he charged $806 for an automobile. By 1924, his Model T cost $247 and at that time, most households owned a vehicle. To top it off, Ford had 60% of the market share. And what did Henry Ford want? He wanted to further reduce the cost of buying a car. At the same time, GM went beyond Ford and provided consumers with different colors and models. By the 1950s, GM had 60% of the market.

Although we still celebrate Henry Ford’s breakthrough, at some point, he became stuck in a rut of trying to make cheaper cars. His declaration of ensuring most households owned a car was accomplished in the 1920s. Except, that was the time to explore new possibilities and declare a new future.

Unfortunately, too often this is the dilemma of high performers. It does not mean you do not enjoy the fruits of your labor. Rather, you are able to now achieve what you set out to do or become. It is important, however, that once you get there it’s the time to ask what you stand for and make a declaration for the future that will shape an entirely new set of actions.

The declaration is a way of showing something as missing. Ford’s declaration about all households lacking affordable cars was bold and there were no structures to fulfill it until the invention of the assembly line. Once the declaration was fulfilled, there was no longer anything missing.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, it may be the proverbial comfort zone. High performers sometimes hit this wall of frustration. They are focused on doing more or just getting better and better at things they already do well. To get out of the rut, allocate time to sit back and think about what’s next for you in your life or career. Ask questions like who do I want to be in the future? What’s missing to get me there? What structures to I need to put in place to bridge the gaps between where I am and where I want to be? It also helps to brainstorm with someone. It will help you vet thoughts and more clearly articulate what you would like to accomplish.

What do you think? 

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