Echo Chambers Kill Innovation and Growth

echo chamber

I lived in an echo chamber of consultants for more than 7 years. I digested everything the leader wrote, said, and decreed. Everyone else repeated and reinforced his ideas. He created what he deemed best practices and heaven help anyone who disagreed.

One day he verbally slapped me upside the head because I questioned whether one of his doctrines was outdated. It was a wake-up call. I realized I had to completely disconnect in order to thrive.

I tell this story to make one critical point: we have to be alert to the potential risks from living and working in an echo chamber. It’s completely reasonable to gravitate to others who think like we think, who value knowledge and expertise like we do. The risk is that when knowledgeable people repeatedly say the same thing, it becomes the only thing.

The echo chamber is a major threat to B2B services companies.

The company echo chamber looks like this:

  • Stylized mission statement
  • A list of Best Practices
  • Processes and methodologies
  • Policies and procedures
  • Training and consensus building
  • Rigid organizational structure
  • Centralized data collection that controls everything
  • Hourly billing pricing model

These are disseminated throughout the company and there are repercussions for those who deviate.

Overcoming Echo Chambers

Innovation says “we’re not doing what we’ve always done. No matter how many times you repeat it and insist on it, we’re innovating, thinking differently, asking different questions, setting different goals.” Innovation is necessary to increase profit and wealth.

Echo chamber dwellers don’t want to hear this.

How do you overcome the resistance of the echo chamber when your knowledge and expertise have the potential to lead your services company to innovative solutions that deliver great value?

Here are my top Five starting with the most transformative.

  1. Focus on value, value, value. The echo chamber always insists on inputs or “the way we do” It is unconnected to outcomes and value. Innovations and improvements are about changing the outcomes. One of the worst, most devastating echo chambers is around hourly billing. Hourly billing never recognizes your knowledge and expertise; it only recognizes time spent. You lose differentiation, fees commensurate with value delivered, and the ability to increase revenue without working longer hours or incurring higher expenses. If you exit only one echo chamber, make it this one.
  2. Be generous and then more generous. Freely give away your insights and insider knowledge. The secret to this is—they can hear you, but they can’t execute like you can. The best fit prospects will realize this and hire your company for the implementation. Echo chambers insist that you keep your knowledge and expertise secret. I’m sorry to say I believed this for too long: “Talk about What and Why but not How.” Since I’ve been talking freely about the HOW, clients are succeeding more and so is my business.
  3. Go for no. One of the worst echo chambers is the typical sales mantra “getting to yes.” Ask a series of questions that the prospect answers with ‘yes’ and they’ll simply have to say yes when you ask for the sale. Giving the prospect the chance to say no right away increases curiosity and flexibility and reduces pressure. It allows a conversation to take place and a relationship to develop.
  4. Recognize where they’re at. “Sounds like you’re really busy.” “It seems you’re facing a lot of competition.” I’m hearing that money is on your mind.” Echo chambers are never open to individual thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
  5. Share some illuminating observations. Echo chambers rely on closed thinking and repetition. A CPA could say, for example, “getting weekly cash flow statements helps companies (like yours) avoid urgent borrowing at high rates.” This is quite different from “You’re afraid of high interest rates if you have to borrow, aren’t you?”

What echo chambers are you personally living in? What echo chambers exist in your company? Hourly billing? Vise-like ‘best practices’? Rigid organizational structure that prevents people and functions from working together for the benefit of customers and clients?

If you’re curious to recognize echo chambers in your company schedule a complementary call with me. I’m currently focusing these calls on how to recover from the Pandemic in 2021. What echo chambers will hold you back from your recovery in 2021?

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