Umbilicus intuens (or omphaloskepsis) can be extremely debilitating.  Indeed, I worked with a leader who once remarked that his organization was full of navel-gazers… those who spent more time looking within the company than outside the company.


Sir Winston Churchill’s wry description about the enemy lends a credible analogy:

“However absorbed a commander may be in the elaboration of his own thoughts, it is sometimes necessary to take the enemy into consideration.”

Here are 4 warning signs that you should spend more time considering the competition when executing your business plans:

  • Marketing literature touts features and capabilities vs. solving customer needs – Customers may indeed care that your product comes in a variety of colors, or has WiFI but the most important consideration is whether or not it addresses a customer need.  (This TED video illustrates how appealing to ‘why’ is more persuasive than showing ‘what’.)
  • Metrics measure activity vs. achievement – (see Moneyball and the Customer Experience)
  • Culture rewards those who play politics vs. help the company succeed – If you look around and find people more interested in advancing their personal prospects than in serving the customer/company, you have a problem.   Companies are teams so if one teammate begins to monopolize the energy and attention of a group, you can be sure that they are no longer serving the company’s needs to the fullest extent.  Think I’m wrong?  Ask yourself about the US politicians and our recent fiscal woes.  The needs of the country are clearly subordinated to the re-election hopes of congress.
  • Employees are ranked and evaluated against their peers vs. the industry – your company wants the best people on the market, right?  So when evaluating performance it is critical to understand which employees compare favorably to the overall talent pool.  (And just as critical to know where you have talent gaps compared to your competition.)

The pivot point is that if you neglect competitive forces or customer needs POGO’s reflection that “we have met the enemy and he is us” may indeed become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What can you do to help align your company to focus on external factors to ensure your continued survival and success?

Navel-Gazing… Your Worst Enemy
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