Published on: September 22, 2015by Michael Sansolo
For a second let’s forget all our feelings about the current crop of political candidates and accept the possibility that the entire process might be able to impart some interesting business lessons. And this time, I don’t even think I have to stretch as far as usual for a business metaphor.
We can make an argument that there’s something to be learned about competition and outreach from both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Given how diametrically opposite they are politically, the first thing to do - from a business lesson perspective - is to ignore their positions.
Let start with Trump, because these days that’s the single best way to get attention to any kind of blog post. No matter what you think of the man and his opinions, there is a single, indisputable fact about the flamboyant real estate developer: he isn’t playing by the rules.
With every move he makes, Trump violates all the maxims of politics. He says things no one else would say, seems unconcerned with everything from fund raising to the realities of governing. Love or loathe him, he’s a unique show.
For those of us in business, there’s an important reality in that. We frequently see disruptive forces in the market that upend the way business is usually done. Years ago it was the discussion surrounding Walmart, clubs, discounter drug stores and other non-traditional forms of competition. Today it’s the endless run of e-commerce players, many of which seem unconcerned about turning a profit.
The truth is that not all of these disrupters succeed - seen any Phar-Mor stores recently? - but nearly all found a way to alter the market place by doing things others thought impossible. And while there is an argument to be made that at times they do things that are unsustainable or unrealistic, the reality is that rule breakers challenge the status quo. They certainly change consumer expectations, and everybody else has to deal with the repercussions.
We can’t anticipate rule breakers or properly plan for them, but we need to have the mental disciplines, flexibility and creativity to deal with them when they come. Think about that as you watch more traditional Republican candidates try to determine a path to rebut the rise of Trump, Carly Fiorina or Ben Carson.
In addition, we always need reminders to challenge our own points of view and recently Vermont Senator Sanders did that with his own seemingly illogical presidential campaign. Just last week Sanders spoke at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell that is known for its conservative values.
Sanders acknowledged that his positions were strongly at odds with the opinions held by the students of the school, but made the point that leaders need to escape the echo chamber of cheering crowds of supporters. Both Sanders and Liberty should be applauded for the willingness to engage in discussion, even if not a single vote was changed on that day.
Again, for business leaders the lesson is clear. We need engage those different from ourselves whenever possible. We need to seek out folks with work with you look, think and act differently from us, rather than those who see the world the same way we do.
When we do that, we open ourselves up to different perspectives, new ideas and hopefully new opportunities. It might even prepare us for when the rule breakers come along with radically different ideas and approaches.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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