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  • Bill Greider

Fight-or-Flight and the Infinite Game




You are all probably familiar with the human fight-or-flight response. When chased by a bear, people have been clocked at 45 mph (exaggeration). Anna Bagenholm of Sweden was rescued after being trapped under the ice on a lake for 80 minutes! The fight-or-flight response is about doing exactly what is important right now. When chased by a bear, few people would recite The Gettysburg Address or play a kazoo, for example.


This applies to our businesses too! We see evidence every day of organizations focused on exactly what is important right now. The safety and overall well being of their people. Making masks, respirators, gowns, or swabs, taking care of every customer. The fight-or-flight response is about doing exactly what's important right now and working together to make and execute decisions quickly to not only see us through COVID-19, but much stronger on the other end.


Simon Sinek, in his book "The Infinite Game" reminds us that business really isn't about winning and losing, but about doing all the right things to keep playing the game. Unlike football (60 minutes) or baseball (9 innings), business is about figuring out how to keep playing long term, even allowing our children and their children to play if they like.


Keep in mind that our only sustainable competitive advantage is our ability, as an organization, to learn and adjust quickly. We wish everything would stay still, but a fact of life is that periodically, due to things out of our control we will be tested, sometimes find ourselves under the ice, like poor Anna. Nothing like a good fight to learn quickly that we need to improve our left hook.


Personally, one of the most important adjustments I ever made during fight-or-flight was switching to a lean business strategy right after 9/11. This change was not easy, but falls under "if you want results others don't get, you need to be willing to do things others won't do." The results I wanted was to be better prepared for the next crisis that was out of our control (Wall Street 2009), because we KNOW it is coming. We don't know what, we just know it's coming.


Lean thinking is about developing a laser-like focus on value as defined by your customer and working together to eliminate non-value added work (the 8 wastes) in every single process in the business. It is about obliterating silos and developing leaders in every corner of the organization. It is about building a team much better suited for the infinite game!


Gloria and I hope you and yours are healthy and happy!!!


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