Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But in business, insanity goes a step further. In business, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, and then making it a standard operating procedure for everyone to follow.
One of the easiest rules I stress in business, and one that most CEOs never fully grasp is this: “If something works, do more of it. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it!”
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet we fail to follow it. Let me give you an example:
I will often ask someone “What are you doing in sales that has been giving you the best results?” I will typically get an answer like this: “When we bring an engineer with us on the presentation, we close almost every deal after doing that.” Then I find out that they only do this rarely and only on certain occasions. I can’t help but ask: “Well, if it gets you such great results, why aren’t you doing it more often? In fact, why aren’t you doing it every time?”
Then I’ll ask: “What are you doing that doesn’t work for you?” A typical answer might be: “We do a lot of direct mailing, but the response rate is dismal at best.” My anguished response is: “So why do you keep doing it?” Usually, they don’t know why. Corporate insanity? Perhaps.
My recommendation is to begin a corporate-wide initiative to pinpoint the practices that are working across the different functional areas (accounting, sales, manufacturing, marketing, product development, human resources, etc.), and start doing more of them, and doing them better.
At the same time, you should be making a monumental effort to figure out what’s not working…what’s costing you effort, money, and lost opportunities. Then STOP doing them! Stop institutionalizing insanity in your organization. Every manager in your company should be able to answer this question: “What’s working and what’s not working?” If they can’t answer that question, maybe they shouldn’t be working — for you.