The Mulley posted a link to a YouTube-hosted AmEx advert “Pong v Roddick”.
Now, obviously I’m a sucker for this. I’m unlikely to ever get AmEx again having escaped from their vicelike grip four years ago. I’m certainly never walking down that road again. But I digress.
The advert, for those who can’t be bothered watching, has some tennis player (Roddick) being placed against the PONG cursor. I remember playing PONG YEARS ago (I mean, pre-1980 – which in itself is, for many of today’s entrepreneurs, a distant age which they label as “before I was even born, man”). I am getting so old. Damn. Even my 4 year old daughter tuts at the white tufts in my beard saying that it makes me look like an old man….and that’s bad because, in her words, “old men die!”. More digression.
PONG, in the video, represents an almost unbeatable, implacable foe. With it’s smooth, white exterior it weathers all of Roddick’s best plays. It moves with the speed of thought, it’s massive surface reflects the ball with ease. In this way we see the small-business entrepreneur represented by the lone human and the vast, blind PONG cursor as being your big competitor (BT, Google, Microsoft, Sage – pick your own Goliath!). In the end the human wins by zigging instead of zagging – by making a move that takes advantage of the relative lack of agility of the big cursor. Sure – it, like a big company, can move blindly fast when you stick to it’s rules, when you force it to move along it’s well-established and well-crewed lines of business. But getting a corporation, ostensibly the ultimate committee, to move “diagonally” just shows how lumbering they can be.
So, while we try to be all Bedouin everywhere (and more on that elsewhere as we start moving our pawns and I refuse to digress right now), we need to learn how to move diagonally. And as an example I’ll tell a wee story.
When my first business moved into it’s second office, we needed to put up some stud walls. The obvious instinct was to put up a wall parallel to the existing walls of this small “suspended ceiling and trunking supplied” crypt.
Don’t just do something, stand there!
I questioned this assumption at the time and managed to convince the other guys to help me construct a strange serpentine affair which maximised the amount of wall space we would gain. Sure – working out the angles probably doubled the time it took to build – but we ended up with more space to put desks, narrower corridor-type spaces and a decent sized “reception” area for customers to lounge about in.
Was it a mistake? Well, probably. After the fact there were some complaints about it – but no-one had a better idea at the time and we planned it for two weeks. I’m unsure sometimes about whether it was a lack of commitment to the vision, but essentially the “out of the box” idea beat the “same old thing” ideas without hesitation.
Do you take the time to look at the current plan and see whether there’s a diagonal route?