What is External Auto-Focus?

As a management consultant, I can almost walk into a building and look at the physicality of the people that work there – the expressions on their faces – and I can tell you almost instantly what kind of organization they are. In fact, study after study shows that organizations that have a high employee satisfaction index – that is, organizations that aren’t about blaming, and aren’t about processes, provide a tremendously higher value, quality, and customer satisfaction. Thus, it starts with external focus.

External companies, rather than looking at risk, look at opportunity. They see the opportunity in virtually everything. Not just an opportunity, but an opportunity to become more efficient, an opportunity to provide better products at a lower price, an opportunity to serve everybody in their ecosystem – and that’s what’s magical about great companies. These companies know how to be innovation superstars.

Externally focused organizations avoid “techno-focus.” Techno-focused, or “techno-centric” organizations tend to look at their technology or product as an independent thing, a bright shiny object. It becomes that “bright shiny object” without regard to how it lives in the external world.

But we’re not in the business of creating bright shiny objects, are we? We’re in the business of creating wonderful multisensory experiences for our customers. To the extent we can do that, we rule. And that’s what innovation superstars do so well. So – don’t focus on the bright shiny object – focus on the experience. Think of it this way: The bright shiny object is no more than a delivery system for a human experience. It’s incredible to me how companies have lost this fundamental principle that has been proven over and over again.

Another characteristic of bad culture or of an internal or self-centered culture is a reactive approach towards the market and a reactive approach towards customer value. Externally-focused companies know that they need to be in front of a customer’s needs, so they are proactive. They find ways to deliver new value before the competition. They surprise their customers with new value that they didn’t even expect in the first place. Internally focused organizations, on the other hand, become reactive. They respond to customer complaints and dissatisfaction. Again, externally focused organizations prevent that from happening by being so well connected, by living in the outside world, by “getting off their asses” and going out and living with their customers.

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