I’ve been thinking about a term I learned at last year’s HR Technology Conference. One of the speakers, Don Tapscott mentioned it – the “burning platform”. The term originated in 1988 by Daryl Conner, an organizational change consultant.
The origin of the term is based upon a story about Andy Mochan, an oil rig crew member, working in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. The oil rig had an explosion. Mochan was faced with the decision of dying in the fire or jumping fifteen stories into the freezing seas, where his chances of survival were slim at best. Mochan was quoted as saying, “It was either jump or fry.” He jumped. And he survived.
Tapscott used the burning platform metaphor in the context of technology and organizational change. I can certainly see his point. Companies are making decisions right now because the cost of staying where they are (i.e. the status quo) is greater than the cost of adopting something new. And I can see this concept applying not only to technology but other aspects of business as well. How many organizations do you know are getting dragged kicking and screaming into the post-Great Recession world?
While being faced with a dire situation might help companies make much needed change, this is certainly not ideal decision-making. Ultimately, businesses need to figure out how to become “Effective Adopters”. Not everyone has to be an early adopter but you certainly don’t want to be so late to the party that you can’t catch up. This applies to individuals as well as businesses. To become an effective adopter, consider these five steps:
- Recognize the trend. One way to see the next big thing is to notice what people are talking about. Even if they’re talking about what a ridiculous idea something might be. That could be a conversation worth investigating.
- Research the trend. Once you have identified a potentially viable trend or idea, do your homework. It’s perfectly okay to decide for yourself whether something is good for your business. Find out what others are doing and what they claim are the benefits and disadvantages.
- Make a commitment to try something new. If the research indicates the possibility of a gain for the business, find a way to conduct your own experiment. Define what you’re planning to do and the resources you’re prepared to commit. Also identify what result or outcome you are hoping to achieve.
- Participate at a high level. It might be tempting at the first sign of difficulty to give up on the experiment. “I knew this was a waste of time!” Please, resist the urge. Give the experiment your full attention. It’s possible the benefits will be realized (but not immediately) or an unanticipated benefit emerges.
- Evaluate results. Even if you decide not to move forward, my guess is you will learn a lot from the experiment. For one thing, you’ll be knowledgeable about the topic and aware of trend changes.
For example, let’s say a few years ago you heard about this “trend” called Twitter. On the surface, it looks weird – people talking about bacon 24/7 – definitely not worth your time. But as time goes on, you hear more people talking about Twitter and even start to see television ads mentioning Twitter. So, you decide to investigate. You learn that 67% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from the brands they follow on Twitter. Based on that, you decide to give it a try for 30-days and see what happens. After a month, your verdict is you still don’t understand how people have time for Twitter and close your account.
Later, you discover distribution tools like Buffer and Tweetdeck. You remember your experiment challenges and decide to give it another try – because the new trend addresses your initial objections. Now, you’re getting the hang of it and seeing the results you were looking for.
Want to avoid an organizational “burning platform”? Figure out how to turn your business into an effective adopter.
Image courtesy of HR Bartender