perpetual improvement

When conductors train their orchestra for a particularly challenging bit in a concerto, they will arrive at a point where improvement slows down, but does it ever come to a halt?

First, the error margin is reduced. 100% accuracy is required. Hitting the wrong key or snare is never an option. Once accuracy is achieved, the musicians could stop claiming; we now know this passage and can play it well. Are they, though?

What about the tempo? Is it being played as fast as it should be? What about playing that tricky part under pressure or with sweaty fingers? Is the artistic interpretation genuine, or are they too liberal with creativity?

As a conductor of an orchestra, or the CEO of a company, there is always room for improvement. Thinking there isn’t is a form of misplaced arrogance, one that typically isn’t helpful.

perpetual training

Some skills required for running a business will never go out of fashion. Selling and leadership, to name two. These skills are required at each point throughout a company’s lifecycle, whether you’re just starting or are heading a company that has existed for decades.

Some positions or roles within a company facilitate continuous improvement of those skills more than others. Training opportunities might not present themselves. If so, they should be actively sought out. A side business or project could be fertile ground for brushing up those skills.

Always embrace learning opportunities.

unassessable

I’ve done business in domains where I knew nothing about prior to engaging. In that case, three crucial steps must be taken.

Immerse yourself in knowledge. Take a crash course. Read, listen and watch everything there is to learn on and around the subject. Once you know a little bit, you might know just enough to start asking the right questions.

What does this remind me of? Chances are, there are parallels to be drawn. Connect the dots in your mind and try to apply experiences from another domain, in this new domain.

Surround yourself with an expert. Somebody who knows all the ins and outs, all the pitfalls. Someone who learned by failing in the past, who can prevent you from failing in the present.

The thing is, you can’t judge or evaluate what you don’t know. If you’ve never had an accountant, you can’t verify if the accountant is any good. If you never had to set up a production process, the manufacturers can basically tell you anything.

Learn fast, look for parallels and seek advice from someone you trust (or through someone you trust) who is experienced in the field you are about to explore.

shut up and learn

Knowing what to say when sure is a lovely feeling. The ability to add value to a conversation by providing just the right insights can feel rewarding.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no shame in sitting back to listen to others talk about a topic they’re more skilled and experienced in. Knowing when not to speak is presumably more important than knowing when to speak.

The Buddha allegedly said: “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning. A wise person can enter and dwell in his own teacher’s knowledge, having realized it for himself through knowledge.”

Minimize talking, maximize listening.