“Here be Dragons”

 That would be the inscription found on many old maps somewhere in the middle of the oceans, about the point where the world was assumed to end. Brave ships who attempted to sail in that direction never returned, so it was assumed “Here be Dragons.” More prudent sailors heeded the advice and chose to sail in known waters, rather than tempt the dragons.

 We face the same dilemma today. Our economy was sailing in well-charted seas, far away from any of the known dragons. Oh sure, brave souls would often challenge the dragons; some reaping huge rewards, but most meeting unfortunate ends. The economic turmoil unhinged many of the principles and “truths,” leaving us in territory where “Here be Dragons!”

In the fourth quarter, many companies came face-to-face with that reality and froze – either out of fear or because they were uncertain of what to do. Hunker down became the strategy of the day. It was much easier to wait for a change rather than make change happen. After all, it worked in the past…

 …but “Here be Dragons!” The hunker down strategy assumes that the economy will come out of this downturn in about the same place as it went in. The changes we are seeing all around us make this very improbable. Major corporate icons are struggling. The banking sector can’t find its footing in the market. The government is making unprecedented investments. People are scared and willing to try new things. These happenings make it unlikely that we will ever return to the pre-2007 rules.

So what is the answer? I believe two things are critical for anyone right now: visibility and motion. Visibility creates tremendous opportunities in an environment where most competitors are laying low. The companies who are visible – in front of customers, employees, and the marketplace – will reap tremendous benefits when the economy does turn. When people are ready to spend, these are the people who will be top of mind.

There will be tremendous new opportunities created in the recovery. Many of those opportunities are not clear right now. They will develop in time and those who are ready to move will have the biggest advantage. The best way to be ready to move is to already be in motion. It’s time to make the changes that are more difficult to make in busier times. Money for investments is going farther than it was a year ago. Quality people are looking to improve their situation. Upgrades can be made more quickly and efficiently than in better times. Get in motion!

 The future is extremely bright for people and organizations that stay visible and in motion. The economy will turn and great fortunes will be made and lost over the next year. Let’s be winners in these unique times!


2 Responses to ““Here be Dragons””

  1. 1 jakenolin
    March 20, 2009 at 11:03 am

    This collective “hunker down” heading is a manifestation of our own design. Too many organizations have resorted to cultures focused on risk mitigation and reliance on plagiarized “best-practices” as their compass. We breed compliance-oriented managers rather than dragon slaying leaders.

    It’s like watching a school of fish turn in unison from a perceived threat only to swim into the real ambush…

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