Nothing Changes Until You Tell Yourself the Truth

Depending on your preferred quote, the truth will make you miserable, make you mad, and set you free ... but not until it is finished with you.

I take no comfort in contradicting James Garfield, Aldous Huxley, David Foster Wallace, and especially Jesus. The truth, however, cannot exercise its enormous power for transformation and change unless it is acknowledged and embraced.

You Can't Acknowledge What You Don't See

You never see a website with the headline, "Do business with us. We're mediocre at best."

Judging from the number of customer complaints about poor service and product quality, there are a number of businesses that should, in the name of transparency, make that claim.

There are also still bad bosses and lousy corporate cultures despite values statements that employees are the number one resource. Companies continue to be surprised and disrupted despite their stated commitment to innovation.

The problem isn't usually a malicious intent to deceive or ignore the lofty promises hanging on the office walls. The offenders, for the most part, don't wake each day intent on making the lives of everyone they touch miserable.

The cause is a malady that infects many organizations, individuals, and even society as a whole: 3-D Vision - Denial, Distortion, and Delusion.

Those inflicted by 3-D Vision deny reality, distort their performance (or lack of it), and delude themselves into blaming their less than stellar results on anyone and everyone but themselves. Having 3-D Vision causes you to make faulty assumptions that lead to bad choices.

In business, 3-D Vision shows up in two ways:
  • Doing nothing until it is too late, and
  • Chasing the next business fad based on whim rather than fact.
The examples of those that hastened their demise because they ignored or misread the truth until it was too late are legendary: Blockbuster, traditional taxi companies, Nokia, and Blackberry are merely the latest examples. Before that you had:
  • IBM: "I think there will only be a need for maybe 5 computers." - Thomas Watson
  • Tower Records: The Internet will never affect how people want to purchase and listen to music.
  • Kodak: People will always value the quality of film and want hard prints.
  • Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC): "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." - Ken Olsen

The impact of 3-D Vision in organizations pursuing the next business fad is more difficult to recognize. There are times when you need a new branding initiative, investment in technology, focus on customer retention, and emphasis on employee engagement.

Likewise, each of these good ideas can be a denial, distortion, or delusion about the real problems your organization is facing.

The Cure for 3-D Vision

Avoiding the perils of 3-D Vision depends on the continuous search for and acknowledgement of the truth.

Even then, you must be careful not to confuse honest, robust analysis with the empty ritual that often passes for strategic planning.

The decisions we now view as a colossal misreading of the truth were, at the time, honest assessments made by competent individuals. They no doubt engaged in planning sessions that included environmental scans and scenario planning.

Additionally, even the best data and trend analysis is useless if messengers are ignored and leaders only hear what they want to hear.

Fostering an environment of open, honest communication takes the courage to keeping asking the difficult questions and the willingness to hear the truth without repercussion.

Finally, any future for your operation that is not built around being faster, better, cheaper, and/or friendlier is likely to deliver less than stellar results. Technology was the instrument of disruption for the taxi industry, but the goal was to make the experience easier and more pleasant for the consumer. Had IBM, Tower Records, Kodak, or DEC viewed the future through that lens they would have been less likely to miss the truth that ultimately led to their demise.

Nothing ever changes until you tell yourself the truth. That makes the avoidance of 3-D Vision a competitive advantage in today's world of uncertainty, upheaval, and constant change.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit , email, or call 972.980.9857.