Is Your Business Stuck in a Rut?

Are you one of those people who thinks, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Have you been doing what you’ve been doing the same way for the past six months? Twelve months? Two years? Five years? Or more? If you have, you’re in a rut. And that rut is hurting you.

If you haven’t heard my Make it Remarkable talk, you probably haven’t heard me say, “Everything in life moves from remarkable to ordinary to death (meaning that it no longer satisfies).” But you do know the experience—especially as a customer.

For example, let’s say you go to a great restaurant and you order a dish that you find “Remarkable!” It’s so remarkable that the next time you go out for dinner you say to your spouse or significant other, “We have to go back to that restaurant so I have that same dish that blew me away last time.”

Now, when you arrive and order that same meal, even if it’s cooked exactly the same, is it still as remarkable as it was the first time? No. Why? Because your expectations have changed. In fact, if you keep going back to that same restaurant and you keep ordering that same meal over and over again, it will get a little less remarkable each time until it’s not just ordinary, but you no longer like it (i.e. it’s reached the death stage).

Isn’t that interesting? As a customer, you know that anything that’s done exactly the same over and over again moves from “remarkable to ordinary to death.” So, what does that say to you about what your business does and how you do business with your customers/clients?

If you want to get rid of the disease of sameness, let me share with you two thoughts that will help you begin the journey out of the rut (besides realizing that you’re in a rut in the first place).

1. Own the Remarkability Experience Curve

In other words, just like everything else in life, our beliefs determine our behaviors. So, if you find that you keep doing the same things the same way, then you need to ask yourself, “What beliefs do I own that keep me and my business in a rut?” For example,

1. “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”

If you believe this maxim, you’ll never drive an innovative and creative business, let alone a customer-centric business. The, “If it ain’t broken, don’t break it” maxim is anathema to any kind of breakthrough performance and growth. If you want to grow, you need to believe that “Everything in life goes from remarkable to ordinary to death.” The real maxim should be, “If it ain’t broke, break it.”

2. “If something is working, don’t mess with it.”

The thinking behind this misbelief is that current success = future success. But, the reality is that every product or service goes through a predictable growth cycle (slow adoption, rapid acceleration, maturation, decline). What happens to most businesses is that they “ride” their winners way too long. By the time they’re ready to make changes, their product or service is usually in the late maturation or decline stage (i.e. way too late). The better belief is “When something is working, that’s when I/we should start messing with it” (i.e. you want to innovate before you have to).

3. “People like consistency.”

Yes and no. People like consistency, but not complete predictability. It’s not that the Italian restaurant has to become a steak house then a Sushi bar then a Mexican Cantina to be remarkable. Nor does it have to serve the main course before the appetizer or move the bar from one side of the restaurant to the other to be remarkable again.

Instead, it needs to offer tweaks and changes within a normal range. For example, the restaurant could change a few menu items at a time (or maybe offer a seasonal change every three months). It could change the plating. It could change the music. It could change the wall colors or artwork. It could change the way they present the desserts (or the desserts themselves). It could change the ambiance. It could change the shape or design of the menus. It could have the chef prepare some menu items alongside a table—or even the servers  could do this (I remember being in Cancun with my wife several years ago and the server preparing the Caesar salad dressing (grinding the garlic and anchovy etc.) in a wooden bowl and then serving the Caesar salad table side. It was remarkable).

In other words, being remarkable doesn’t mean that you have to completely change everything. It just means that you’re continually improving and adjusting your products and services so that they eliminate the negative affects of the remarkability experience curve (that everything in life moves from remarkable to ordinary to death).

However, and this is key, unless you believe that statement to the core of your being, you won’t keep changing things up. Why? Because change is work. The gravitational pull of doing what you’ve been doing the same way you’ve been doing it is overwhelmingly powerful. It’s easy to keep doing things the same way. It’s hard to do them differently.

That said, when is doing something the easy thing the pathway to success? If winning were easy, everyone would be doing it. But it’s not. So do you really believe that everything in life moves from remarkable to ordinary to death? I hope so! Because your business (and your customers) are depending on it!

2. Ask the Picasso Question All the Time 

I’ve embedded the video clip below from my Make it Remarkable talk where I discuss what the Picasso question is and where it’s derived from, but the basic Picasso question is, “How can I do this differently?”

In other words, if the very first question you ask whenever you’re working on a project or something you’ve done before is “How can I do this differently?” you have, by definition, already begun to overcome the disease of sameness.

For example, we just completed Memorial Day here in the US. Let’s say that every year for the past five years you’ve run the same Memorial Day sale for your business. If the very first question you asked yourself this year when creating your Memorial Day sale was, “How can we do this year’s Memorial Day sale differently than we’ve done the past five years?” you would probably have come up with a more remarkable sales campaign.

Why? Because most business never ask that question. They never ask, “What would be more remarkable?” They never ask, “What would be a better more effective way?” They simply get stuck in a rut and do what they’ve done before.

So, to avoid that, keep asking yourself the Picasso question. Ask it every week. Ask it about everything. And never ever give in to the temptation to keep doing what you’ve been doing over and over again. In fact, my favorite Picasso quote goes like this.

“To copy the masters is necessary. To copy oneself is pathetic.”

So, if you want to get your business out of the rut of sameness and onto the path of continual growth and remarkability, I’d encourage you to

1. Change your belief system so that you own the remarkability experience curve (that everything in life moves from remarkable to ordinary to death) and

2. That you get in the habit of asking the Picasso question (“How can I/we do this differently?”) at the start of every project and regularly about every product and/or service you offer.

If you do those two things, you’ll be way ahead of your competition and you’ll stay alive for a long time!

To your accelerated success!

P.S. Remember, history is full of companies that once were great, that aren’t now.  You don’t want to be one of them!

P.P.S. If you have some other ideas about how to get out of a rut, make sure you add them in the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by RSS or email)