As a business leader, it’s likely you’re continually looking for ways to make better decisions. If so, you might want to take a look at the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman.
Imagine you own a restaurant. It’s a small, cozy place that caters to families and has a great reputation not only for the food but also for the atmosphere. One evening, a customer comes in and orders that night’s special. When his entrée arrives, he takes issue first with the temperature and then with the taste of the dish. Having already served it to dozens of other patrons already this evening, your staff is both surprised and skeptical. After they apologize and offer his dinner for free, the customer continues to complain loudly, becoming the focal point of the entire restaurant.
It’s the evening of September 11, 2016, as I write this, the 15th anniversary of the attacks on our country that resulted in 2,996 deaths. If you’re like me, you remember both the horrific and the heroic from that day. I’ll never forget the scenes of destruction that resulted from the cowardly attacks on our country, but what stands out even more to me is the way Americans and those from around the world came together.
It seems as if we get busier every day. How often do you get to the end of the day and feel like you have more left to do than when the day began?
Yesterday I happened down a road I drive on occasionally. I typically take the road northbound as a shortcut to a particular destination. But yesterday I found myself driving south on the same road and barely recognized it. In fact, I had to turn to my wife and ask if we were on the right road. The surroundings seemed unfamiliar to me despite the fact that I travel on the road a couple of times each month.
You don’t spend nearly enough time simply thinking. Before you take offense to that statement, consider how much time you spend talking, responding to e-mail, even reading—my guess is that you spend more time doing any one of them than you do thinking.
My mother often said to me, “Look before you leap.” She was warning me to stop for a second and think before I threw myself headlong into whatever it was I was considering. That’s because out of her four children, I was probably the most impulsive. Let me reword that—I was the most impulsive.
One of the national hotel chains, in an attempt to attract business travelers, advertises that if you stay at its hotels, you’ll be able to take on “the 800-pound gorilla in the room.” The ad shows Regional Manager Amy, after spending a night in one of the hotels, being able to tame the chest-pounding 800-pound gorilla the next day in her meeting.
Knowing what your customers want and need and delivering it are key concepts for any business. But how do you really know what your customers want?
There’s a very powerful scene from the first episode of the television series The Newsroom, which debuted on HBO last year. In the scene, the news anchor, played by Jeff Daniels, is a member of a panel that sits before a large auditorium filled with adults of various ages. A young woman from the crowd steps forward to ask a question: “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”
The other two panelists answer the question quickly with pat answers about diversity and freedom, but Daniels’ character thinks for a second and says, “It’s not the greatest country in the world.” The moderator, obviously uncomfortable with that answer, tries to change the subject, but the anchorman continues with a harsh and honest assessment about why America isn’t the greatest country in the world. The crowd sits in shocked silence.