The Dangers of Discovery

In 1902 James Cash Penney founded the infamous department store J.C. Penney. Some 110 years later, this department store still anchors many malls and shopping centers around the US. Penney, who was one of many children and raised on a farm growing up, was no stranger to hard work. While starting J.C. Penney, he also had a side job as a brick layer. Penney surely knew the value of hard work and discipline as someone who made his initial living working with his hands. Penney was brought up making things happen, and this was reflected in his corporate work ethic. He is quoted as saying,

My definition of an executives job is brief and to the point. It is as simple as this: getting things done through other people.

Of course this sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Though many of us may agree that getting things done though others is the responsibility of leadership, I have found while working with organizations that this is rarely completed effectively. Thrive has been founded on the discovery of information – at our very core that is what we do. There is a significant danger with this discovery though.

Discovery, which does not lead to action, will quickly drive burnout and frustration.

As organizations look to gain a competitive edge, discovery and measurement become important tools. Many companies are beginning to catch this importance, and some are hiring organizations like Thrive Development to help. I can hardly fault them for this. Discovery is a noble pursuit – but few realize how dangerous it can be. The danger of measurement and discovery of information is that many see this very act as the solution. Many organizations stop at gathering data, and do not have the discipline and training to act upon what they learn. Many leaders do not have the drive and persistence of a James Penney that is needed to get things done. Without this drive, without execution, organizations will simply fuel the fires of frustration and burnout.

Though it is critical for learning organizations to be diligent about discovering information and measuring results, it is just as critical that these organizations execute. In fact Thrive lets our clients know that if they are not ready to act upon discovery, it is better to just not discover. Learning about all of your problems and opportunities is great, but employees will hold leaders responsible for what they know. If, for example, you discover that customers are unsatisfied with service response times than you must be willing to respond to this information and execute upon it. Employees will continue to deal with the issue, but without execution it will become a festering issue that divides and causes frustration. You would be better off just not knowing it was a problem.

The danger of discovery lies in the inability to execute. We should all take a lesson in discipline and execution from someone like James Penney. Leaders must be responsible for the information they gather and use it for improvement. If you know and don’t act, there will be consequences internally. If you’re not ready or equipped to execute, than don’t discover.

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4 thoughts on “The Dangers of Discovery

  1. Greg Waddell says:

    Excellent post! Very true. I have witnessed this phenomenon quite often and not always in others, but also in myself. I had never linked it to burnout though. That’s a new insight for me. Thank you.

  2. micahyost says:

    Thank you for reading, Dr. Waddell. Your input and insight is appreciated.

  3. Thank you for a great post! Very insightful and thought-provoking. Execution is so important after discovery. I am glad to see that someone pointing that out.

    Thank you,
    Patricia Knight

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