The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

To Survive and Thrive in 2020 - Find Inflection Points

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Monday, January 13, 2020
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Andy Gove, in his landmark book Only The Paranoid Survive, stated “a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when the fundamentals are about to change.”  This is precisely my mantra in exploring what helps an organization be resilient and forward moving versus a potential dinosaur. Think Kodak, Blockbuster, and video tapes. Change was there but the willingness to pay attention was not.

Rita McGrath, Professor of Business at Columbia offers keen advice in her newest book: Seeing Around the Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen. Unlike some business books, McGrath distills easily accessible and actionable wisdom in every chapter.

One of my favorite pieces of advice is what I have termed the “orange batons”. If you’ve heard me speak, you know I am talking about the folks on the tarmac who hold orange batons and bring in jets for parking safely on the jetway. They are on the ground because the pilots literally can’t see the markings on the tarmac.

Rita insist (and I believe rightly so) that “it’s the people at the fringes who are most likely to see it first: the sales people; the people in customer service who know what is on people’s minds, the scientists… it’s not around a conference table or a board room.” According to McGrath, “Virtually every major inflection point she studied there was early evidence of one’s potential long before it happened.”

Sadly executives stay focused on delivering the current quarter, handling day-to-day pressures, and because of their very success, stay safely ensconced in headquarters with internal staff.

So: here is your first marching order. Get out of your normal “zone”.  Seek people whom you haven’t spoken to and then listen, naively listen. I still remember walking through a steel plant in Ohio and the operator of one of the huge furnaces gestured with disdain at the executive office a few blocks away. “I’m retiring in three weeks. I know how we can make this operation better, but no one from that office (again another gesture) would ever think of coming here and asking me what I know.”

Great way to march into resiliency for 2020. I’d love to learn what you discover.


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Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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