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March 7, 2006

News & Opinion: Prepared Mind World Tour #1 - Observing

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:56 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy


Greetings to all you Prepared Minds from Bill and Jeanie:

This is the first of eight blogs that we will post to give more insight into the eight skills we see as fundamental to people and organizations that are prepared for the future. Comments are appreciated.

BE PREPARED TO OBSERVE: We admire those who are prepared for their future and wonder about those who plead surprise or try the Ken Lay defense of I didnt know. Ignorance may be a defense in court but what does that say about the person?

In the old days of the Soviet American Cold War the military recognized that getting surprised by Soviet bombers was not a good thing (to put it mildly) so we constructed the DEW (distant early warning) Line along the northern horizon. The intent was to see danger as early as possible. Likewise, no one, not the CEO or the new data entry clerk, should be in the position of being surprised. However, we dont have the time or the bandwidth to notice everything.

So, one question you should ponder is that of What worries you? We built the DEW Line because we were worried about the Soviets. We watch our cholesterol because were worried about heart disease. We watch leading indicators because we worry about the economy. So what should trigger your attention if it hits the edge of your mental radar screen?

What else should be on your to be noticed checklist? Well, think about all of the assumptions that are the foundation of our personal and business plans. Assumptions are great mental shortcuts; but they tend to degrade without warning. You may assume that you and your department are valuable and necessary to the running of the organization in which you work. And, therefore, you maintain the status quo; just doing your job day-in and day-out. However, the current trend of outsourcing, sending knowledge jobs to China or India, should awaken you to observe specific trends in your industry. The bottom line is that you need to consider which of your assumptions are most important to your longevity and future success. Bring them into the open and watch them.

OK, so we need to observe those things that might put us at risk. How about the proverbial flip side of the coin? Where does opportunity lie? What was it that Toyota saw in 1993 that caused them to start the process that created the Prius hybrid? Why design, engineer and build a hybrid car when there was absolutely NO mass market? Simply put, Toyota saw the convergence of rising oil prices, and a rising world middle-class economy, and a citizenry concern for ecology. There was no market data to prove them right only thinking driven by edge-of-the-screen observation.

Where are the opportunities waiting for your observations? And how do you prepare yourself to take advantage of them? Ask yourself this question: What cant be done today that, if it could, would change your career or your company for the better? Can you see people in other disciplines, or companies, or industries that have already addressed your impossibility? You wont know until you look and you wont look until you decide to really observe the world around you. You see, it all starts with intention.

Next week well comment on Reasoning and its role in developing a Prepared Mind. (UPDATE: check out the second part of the world tour)

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.