Careers are mysterious. We skip naively into them, assuming that our generally optimistic assumptions about the company, our boss, and coworkers are true. Then wham, the gilt flies off the lily.
That’s okay, actually. Careers teach us to pay attention continuously.
A pulse exists below the surface of every business. It may be:
- Unseen or foreign to us
- Outside our understanding
- Separate from the work we perform daily
That pulse drives business all decision-making, actions which include both simple and wildly complex variables.
Directly or indirectly, that business pulse impacts us in ways we either like or don’t. When we “get” what’s going on, we’re better positioned to respond or react in ways that are good for us, building our savvy.
What you see v. what is
Marketing is the juice. The business markets its goods and services for profit; we market our capabilities for reward.
We are also marketing targets even when it’s not obvious that we are. When we feel the pulse of it, we’re likely on the verge of a “now-I-get-it” moment.
Consider this: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but several colleges have stepped out lately in some wild, new football uniform styles and designs—from helmets to jerseys to shoes.
Journalist Mo Rocca did a piece for the CBS Sunday Morning Program (January 8, 2012) featuring the gridiron wear of the Oregon Ducks who won the Rose Bowl. Rocca’s piece described the Oregon Ducks as looking “less like football players and more like comic book superheroes, sporting mirrored ‘special edition’ helmets that had never been worn before.”
In fact Rocca reports:
This regular season alone, the Ducks wore eight different jerseys, six pants, five helmets and four different shoe and sock colors . . . a staggering number of possible combinations.
The Oregon football team isn’t the only one sporting snazzy new unis: Notre Dame and the University of Maryland did too.
On the surface, you would think the change to more high-tech gear was strictly for on-field performance, safety, and durability. Well, as Coach Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!”
ESPN’s Paul Lukas explains to Rocca the story behind the new uniforms move:
…when you and I were kids, you couldn’t go and buy a jersey. That market didn’t exist…They hadn’t figured out that someone would drop $200 for a polyester shirt.
And…now that they know people will do that, ‘Well, you already bought this year’s jersey. Well, what if we change our jersey next year?’ You’d go and buy another one.
The “now-I-get-it” discovery is that this change was about merchandizing and not just great TV optics.
There’s a secondary story about most everything in business, that’s why you need to be savvy to the underlying pulse and needs of the company you work for.
Think of the last time you didn’t get hired or promoted. It’s likely the decision wasn’t all about you. The successful candidate may have been:
- Representative of an under-represented constituency
- Identified for a growth assignment
- Someone’s favorite
- Passed over once before and due a second chance
- A non-controversial choice
We all want to think hiring is purely about talent and capabilities, but that would deny the existence of the pulse.
Human beings create and lead businesses in service to other human beings who buy from them. The human element creates the pulse. To succeed ourselves, we need to keep our fingers on it!
Photo from Monica’s Dad via Flickr