“Ask, and It will be Given to You”

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This immortal biblical verse from Matthew the Apostle epitomizes what astute leaders of today did to maintain their success throughout the pandemic. Ocean Spray was one such success story and has chalked up several successes. It demonstrated that user generated content (UGC) can positively improve revenue and improve content production by asking and knowing when and where their loyal customers were talking about them and then responding to that with meaningful and memorable actions.

The first action occurred when Ocean Spray redirected its focus from newly planned product launches to placing people, community and care first. Doing so led to the development, introduction, and donation of several new brands to provide nutrition and nourishment to first responders and health care professionals. That initiative then led to partnering with an innovation accelerator in helping small start-up companies fighting COVID-19.

The other action was in recognition of the fact that people were stressed out because of the lock-downs and quarantines. The company produced a video featuring an uncle on a skateboard videotaping himself while drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice and singing Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 hit song, “Dreams.” It went super viral on TikTok and gathered 51 million views and 9 million likes. So popular was the old song that it generated more than 30 million streams and topped Billboard’s Top Ten List once again in 2020.

Shifting Environments Require Change

Another critical skill during periods of big change includes being aware of a changing environment. This means understanding and knowing where major shift changes usually come from and then continuously scoping the environment and responding before the competition. What helps is assembling a team of independent thinkers, including outsiders, who may bring different and unworn perspectives to the table for consideration.

Weak signals emanating from within the company can be misleading. Don’t shrug them off as some may seriously include erroneous sales targets or seemingly small issues that have the potential of evolving into major problems. Had Wells Fargo and Boeing paid heed to early warning signals, their recent problems would likely not have exacerbated.

Ask and Listen

Leaders can identify areas of collective ignorance by asking questions that uncover the company’s knowledge at the moment to assist the company in being more sensitive to developing issues. By simply learning from the past, questioning the present and foreseeing the future, leaders can look deeper, anticipate and address change.

And although the past may not be a trusty predictor of the future, knowing how and where signals were missed can be helpful in shoring up those areas to avoid similar problems in the future. Are there relevant precedents or analogies from similar industries where similar issues or concerns have been solved? In addition to asking, good leaders also encourage contradictory thinking. While the outcome may not change, it will lead to deeper insights and perspectives. In pursuing this, it’s important for leaders to set clearly-established rules for openness and tolerance and make it clear that every contribution is welcome, even if it contradicts the norm. It’s easy and self-assuring for leaders to surround themselves with “yes” people but it’s a true sign of leadership and inclusivity to open things up.

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