If there is one thing that distinguishes human beings from everything else in the universe it is that we have the capability to be aware of who we are and what our situation is. We are conscious of ourselves and of our surroundings, and we are also conscious of this awareness.
We are not aware of everything, however. Fortunately, you have not been aware (until reading this sentence) of the feeling of your shirt on your shoulders; you shut off that awareness in order to focus on other things. But we don't only shut down our awareness of meaningless, distracting things, like the feeling of our shirts on our backs. Sometimes we don't pay attention to things that are really important.
Like what's going on in our businesses.
My work takes me into many different organizations, and I regularly see companies whose problems stem mostly from a lack of awareness and consciousness about what is going on right in front of them. They plow ahead, day after day, chasing tasks and checking off to-do lists, without opening their eyes to what is really going on inside and outside of their companies.
The list of things we need to be aware of in our businesses is very long, but here are some important questions to help you assess if you and your work colleagues are aware of the most important things.
- Do we understand the details of the results we are creating, right now? Do we understand what makes us money, and what doesn't make us money? Do we understand what moves us forward, and what pushes us backwards?
- Do we understand where the most untapped potential is in our business? Are we currently directing resources at unleashing that potential … or not?
- Do we understand who our best customers are … and who our best customers are not? How well do we know our customers? Do we know what makes one customer different than another? Do we know who should become our customer … and who shouldn't?
- Do we know what our customers think about us? Do we know what we would like them to think about us? Do we know what our customers think about our competition? Do we know what makes our customers tick?
- Do we know what the experience we create for customers is like… from the customer's perspective? Do we have a clear understanding of what it is like to be our customer? Do we know what aspects of our customer experience work well, and which are in need of improvement?
- Do we know what people who work for us believe about the organization? Can we discern when they are behaving in ways that are improving our business results? Can we discern when they are behaving in ways that are diluting our business results?
- Do we understand the outside forces that affect us, but over which we have no control?
- Do we have a good understanding of where we are executing well, and when we are falling short? Are we immediately aware when things go wrong, or do we ever keep fiddling while Rome burns around us?
Here's my experience: When I work through these questions with an executive team, it is very clear to everyone in the room that they are not aware of the answers to many of these questions. And, as we explore these questions, the company becomes much clearer about how to improve the state of their business. There is immense, immediate value in knowing what's going on.
Awareness. Consciousness. They are what make us human. If you want to improve your business, use these uniquely human qualities to your advantage. The more you know about your situation, the more you will know how to make that situation better.