In No Time to Think, Jack Trout claims we’ve become “a world of reactors, not thinkers.” In case you don’t recognize his name, Trout is the author of many marketing classics, including one of my personal favorites ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing‘ which describes the First Mover Advantage.
While technology was supposed to make us more productive, the opposite seems to have happened. I agree there’s no time to think: while I’m writing this, both my desk and cell phone have rung and and multiple emails have shown up in my inbox. (Focus on your writing, Jonathan.)
Trout argues distractions cause people to head in the wrong direction. To illustrate his point, Trout tells a story from his days at General Electric:
I was in a conference room with a crusty old marketing manager and describing a strategy to sell more electric motors. He was not looking at my flip chart. He was looking out the window.
Suddenly, he noticed my discomfort. He said, “Kid, put that presentation away. Our problem isn’t out there in the market–it’s here in this building. Show me a presentation that can get every son-of-a-bitch in this building pointed in the same direction, and we can flatten anything out there.”
It’s a lesson I never forgot.
Although he doesn’t use either term, Trout is referring to lack of organizational alignment and the need for proper prioritization. “People have to work hard not to let themselves get overwhelmed with information, much of which is of little use in making important decisions.”
It’s important to recognize whether we’re being strategic or just reacting to what’s around us. Over the years, I’ve frequently commented we should focus on outcomes instead of activities. We also need to ensure we’re working on what’s important and not just what’s urgent.