I’m on a green tea kick and this weekend I was researching tea pots, specifically one called a Yixing tea pot. The Yixing is a clay pot and, according to the description, because it is clay, it is porous, which means that the surface area is many times larger than a traditional teapot. This provides, among other things, a faster heat time and the ability for the pot to retain water, or to be seasoned.
Of course, this got me thinking about business. If a business is to be successful, it must be continually searching for ways to increase its surface area, to increase it’s touch points with its clients, its competitors, its vendors and its community. Businesses which focus too much within may have great processes and procedures and even a great “culture”, but are so dense that they let nothing in — whether innovation, dissention or new customers. These type of businesses have a contracted surface area and are less adaptable to change or growth.
This is a danger I think every organization faces as it grows — that more time is spent on internal issues than external, and that the time spent on external issues is not adequately communicated to the rest of the organization to help overall growth.
The way I’ve tried to address this is by focusing on growth areas on a weekly basis; not so much as to follow up on what was to be accomplished, but to brainstorm ideas to promote growth and to communicate what’s working and not working as quickly as possible to the rest of the organization.
But if these discussions don’t reach out into the frontline, then you won’t take full advantage of the resources you have. Managers need to be focused on: 1) engaging with customers and clients and frontline staff; 2) improving methods for the overall organization to engage with customers, clients and frontline staff; and 3) sharing, learning and communicating what works and doesn’t work with their peers.
Increasing the surface area of your organization doesn’t make you weaker. As you know, clay has a tremendous capacity to withstand extreme heat. It makes you stronger.