Why comparison is an underrated business tool

In a book entitled The Luck Factor, published just a few years ago, the author documented the outcome of his research thesis into what makes some people lucky and others seemingly unlucky.

I’m sure we all know some people who seem to sail through life with hardly a problem: no ill health, a good marriage and good kids. Generally life seems to be smooth sailing. In other cases, there are people who seem to have all the bad luck: health problems, marital and work issues and maybe children who are more trouble than perhaps one would expect.

One of the interesting things the author observed was that the so-called “lucky people” were the ones who had a more open mind. They held no firmly-entrenched views and were always willing to listen and learn and see an opportunity when it presented itself, courtesy of their open-mindedness.

Leave your baggage at the door

In business, open-minded people are by far the best performers, especially where important decisions are being. Good performers bring no baggage to an issue in the form of firmly held views that simply will not allow them to be swayed. Instead they are always willing to listen and learn and explore new initiatives. Indeed the entire art of “change management”, a big business these days, is about trying to reach these people who find it so difficult to move their thinking to a new place.

Comparison is a great way of learning

There is a lesson here for all of us and one that can be discovered and learned with a systematic process using the “Opportunity Search Matrix”, an extension of the innovation matrix that was developed several years ago.

In an opportunity search matrix, there are five “Seeds” or fundamentals, that are the search criteria for an opportunity, and eight “Catalysts” that are ways of thinking about the seeds. The development and use of this matrix greatly systematises the search for an opportunity in both business and for life in general.

One of the important seeds is “Comparison”; that is to compare your performance in any endeavour with others doing the same task.

Tracking literally means to follow or observe how any person skilled in some area operates and see what you can learn. The lessons to be learned by this simple process can have life-changing effects, providing you are prepared to look, listen and learn.

In using the process it soon becomes clear that in many cases it is our software, our mental approach and knowledge, rather than our hardware, that differentiates us from each other.

Some examples

Golf is a great example. Some of the best golfers are by no means large people – they simply have some special gift. Perhaps we can call this software.

So too with footballers and cricketers. Sir Donald Bradman was by no means a big man – he just had exceptional software.

I once used the comparison tool and learned to swim efficiently in literally a few seconds, simply by observation.

Some years ago when watching my nine-year-old daughter swimming I noted that she and all her friend could swim 5km or more, where I, with a lot more hardware, could barely swim 50 metres. With that observation I decided to see what the difference was. The answer was soon obvious. Good swimmers – those unlike me, who had not been taught to swim use – the big muscles of their back to roll their shoulders and swim, whereas the no-knowledge swimmers use the small muscles of their arms.

With that simple observation I was able to jump into the water and replicate this correct swimming action within seconds. You too can do this in all fields of endeavour.

It works in business as well

Do not discount this as mere theoretical nonsense. There are many examples where the above approach can be used to good effect.

Have you ever wondered how some workers can use a shovel all day long but when you get into the garden you can barely work for an hour before exhaustion takes the better of you? Is the difference strength or fitness?

Yes, perhaps to a some extent physical attributes may play a role, but may I suggest if you use the comparison and tracking tools to observe you will soon notice that those skilled in the art of using a shovel do most of the heavy work with their legs, not the small muscles of their arms. Observe and embrace this simple change in technique and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.

In business the same can be applied.

For example, if you take group of salespeople and plot sales made per person over a period and compare performance, you will generally find one exceptional performer.

Is it hardware of software?

Think about it. What’s the difference: software or hardware?

The difference will almost always be software or the approach to the task used by the best performers. The secret is to recognise this and use the comparison, seed and tracking catalyst to see what the best performers do differently. Learn from them and then up-skill the lesser performers. Perhaps you may not bring these people to the same level as the champions, but you can be sure, if they are open to learning you will lift their performance markedly with a little training.

Apply this to your own efforts, mindset and approach and see the results.

This method is both rigorous and systematic, and most of all, it works.

A simple lesson learned from my dog

Finally, let me leave you with the dedication to a book I recently wrote, an example where I learned something from my dog. Yes, I compared myself with my dog!

This is a life lesson well worth learning and one that I have passed on to my adult children. It’s a lesson we can all embrace as a way to a better life, health and happiness.

The dedication in my book reads:

“This book is dedicated to our recently departed dog “Wally” – perhaps a strange dedication, but this dog taught our family so much. To be loved, just show great joy and figuratively “wag your tail” whenever you see a loved one.

One of life’s great secrets, I suggest.


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