Simon, my eldest son, had been going to Nursery School for 4 months when I learned a valuable lesson. I took him on his first day but I hadnt dropped him off since. Due to our family routine itd become Aprils job.
Today however, its my task again. I get him all strapped into his booster seat (also known as the throne because he sits so high he seems to rule the place) and we head out together for our 5 minute journey, which Im certain I remember.
Imagine yourself driving in a car with a 3 year old. It goes without saying youre in charge, right? After all, youre the one with the experience, the judgment, the skill, the practice, correct? Think again.
We enter the school zone. The place is a zoo school buses zooming in and out, parents dropping off kids, children walking, shouting, and laughing. Its a virtual sea of stimulation to navigate.
Simon is jabbering away about something in the back as Im trying concentrate on all thats going on. The car entrance to the school is coming up on the right. It leads into a single-row parking lot that runs parallel to the main road, and Im scoping ahead for a spot to park.
Then I hear: Stop Dad.
Then quicker and slightly louder: Stop Dad.
In the midst of it all I disregard him. He probably thinks Im going to miss the turn, I say to myself.
With increasing volume, Stop, stop, STOP Dad!
At that moment I catch a glimpse of a stop sign as I drive past it. My heart races at my error and I take the quick right-hand turn into the entrance.
Son of gun, I cant believe I didnt see the sign, I think, angry at myself for missing it and imagining what could have happened.
My insurance paperwork says Ive been driving for 21 years now. It also says Im a very good (although occasionally fast) driver. Basically, I have tremendous experience and I know what Im doing.
Yet unconsciously, it was THAT driving experience that stopped me from taking Simons comments seriously. I made assumptions about what he was saying:
Hes too young. Hes just playing around. He thinks Im going to miss the entrance but I know Im not.
Frankly, I didnt listen.
It simply didnt occur to me to consider his perspective. As a result someone could have been hurt.
Success always costs us. The more successful we get at something, the more entrenched (unconsciously) we become in THAT approach THIS is the way its always been done; I prefer it THAT way etc. While experience is obviously useful, its dangerously limiting as well.
Where would you like to improve things in your company or area of responsibility? Instead of relying on your past approach experience - stop, stop, STOP and ask the people who are closest to the issue: your managers, your reps, your customers. What are THEIR ideas?