Dutch Boy Mentality

Dutch Boy Mentality

Have we become afraid of winning?

Remember the story of The Little Dutch Boy who used his finger to plug up the hole in a leaky dike? He held back the sea until help could arrive with a more permanent solution. These days, that little boy might have to hang around until he became The Old Dutch Codger … with a very tired finger and a lot of regrets!

I first noticed the phenomenon while in radio during the early nineties and dismissed it as a characteristic of that particular industry. Then I began comparing notes with friends working in other industries and realized it was, in fact, widespread and getting worse. What I’m referring to is the obsession we have developed with over-protecting existing business rather than being innovative or pursuing more new opportunities. Have we lost our competitive spirit?

It’s a defensive mentality that seems to invade every area of our lives, from the manner in which we market goods and services to the way we conduct our wars. Most companies carefully craft advertising not to offend an audience, at the expense of originality or delivering an actual sales message. Ah, focus groups … of course: ask some loaded questions, call the answers feedback and then address the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately, that tends to leave those with more brain cells than an amoeba sort of twisting in the wind but it does provide a margin of false security for the company.

Stores stock large quantities of goods but without much variety. You can find dozens of colors from ‘peach raspberry’ to ‘Piccadilly purple’ but, if you’re a woman, just try to buy something besides ‘hip-huggers’ whether you want to show off your butterfly tattoo or not! One car looks pretty much the same as another and now every auto maker has to make a lawnmower with seats to keep up with the ‘green’ hoax we’re all being force-fed. If the other guy is doing well, make one like him so you don’t lose any ground (Anyone heard of making one better and gaining ground?). By the way, what was the last military action you remember where the talk was of victory instead of avoiding collateral damage and exit strategies? That’s why even world wars used to last a comparatively few years … everyone knew the exit strategy going in: it was called winning!

I learned to win in business, not to keep looking over my shoulder. Sure your best growth comes from existing customers but there are a few other natural laws that also need to be accepted. They include the fact that you’ll always lose a certain amount of your base through attrition, so you’ve got to get more. You’ve got to get more business to replace natural attrition and you’ve got to get more business in order to grow. By definition growth never occurs through retrenchment, however stagnation does quite nicely.

It sounds pretty simple, right? So where did winning go? “Less is more” is one of the most stupid statements I’ve ever heard. Some people actually build marketing strategies based upon that precious pearl. I’m sorry but MORE is more; it always has been and always will be. In case you don’t believe me, I’ll tell you what. You give me twenty dollars and I’ll give you two fives. Do you have more? If you say “Yes,” then come right over to my house … and bring your wallet.

As long as we keep our fingers in the dike waiting for help, work will continue to be outsourced to more competitive economies, jobs will be lost and foreign investors, focused on winning, will own more of our big companies than ever before. WE are the help we’ve been waiting for! It’s time to stop shuffling in circles, simply because the other guy isn’t picking up his feet, and start sprinting for more by recapturing innovation, fostering creativity and exercising the foresight that have always been the hallmarks of American business.


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