Improvisation: Discipline and Flexibility

“There’s always improvisation going on, in every performance” said one of the classically-trained violinists of the trio Time for Three. “Improvisation is based on discipline and flexibility.”

I immediately recognized that that’s exactly what the best performing companies do: they have discipline combined with flexibility to respond to new or unexpected situations or opportunities.

Consider Apple. They have the discipline of deep technical expertise and manufacturing. They also thrive on flexibility, which is creativity in design and then marketing and positioning. How many CEOs get on stage in front of untold thousands of people and unveil their great new product by extracting it from a thin brown envelope?

I admire the many CEOs and owners I am privileged to work with who also practice discipline and flexibility:

The CPA whose 20-year-long disciplined approach to tax returns gave him extensive insight into the workings of his clients’ businesses from year to year. As tax returns became more automated, he had to flex to keep his own business healthy. He chose to offer other ways he could help these clients, such as a live, working and reliable budget and cashflow forecast with which they could manage their business better. The tax returns became a compliance requirement to check off the list and the real relationship with these clients deepened over the improvements in their businesses.

The architect who turned his love of hand-drawn plans for luxury additions and remodels into a unique strength that stands out in an environment where many architects offer only sterile, CAD-based designs.  These beautiful, hand-drawn plans become pieces of art cherished by the clients and admired by their friends. Instead of thinking that his business is a series of one-and-done projects, he sees his clients as a large circle of friends who will recommend him to their friends and so on.

The financial advisor whose discipline keeps him up to date on all new products and services as well as rules and regulations, and then who creatively speaks with his clients to help them picture all aspects of their future, from the present to many years ahead. He has said to me that it’s the discipline of knowing everything that allows him to improvise in the relationship-building aspects of his work and therefore grow his client roster.

Your Company

You have the discipline, the education, experience and expertise that your business requires. What would happen to your business if you improvised, that is, flexed from the discipline?

  • Would you create new ways to increase revenue from your best buyers?
  • Would you actually identify your best buyers in the first place?
  • Would you ask “How can we maximize sales cycle speed, without losing credibility (you seem desperate) or increasing risk (what did we miss)?”
  • Would you be maximizing owner wealth because you use better financial analysis tools every single day, and are therefore able to make better, and sometimes creative, decisions?

Take a moment right now to write down one area in which you could improvise: in sales, marketing, customer service, financials, product development, owner wealth. Give yourself a timeline, say 30 days, to respond to an opportunity to improvise. These opportunities are all around you, if you are looking for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.