The Compass Doesn’t Move The Boat

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

I picked up on this expression recently. Having had a generally torrid 2020, with the pandemic and all, most business leaders I listened to seemed to still be playing the short game. I heard various versions of “we need to double down, work thrice (insert your preferred multiple) as hard, and who knows, maybe we will arrive at some destination (read P&L figures) that makes up for the past year”.

So we’ve revised forecasts that were generally useless at predicting the kind of year 2020 would be. KPIs have been redone, line managers have been reading the riot act and basically trying to whip everyone into shape.

If these companies were cars, they would be all dashboard…hundreds and hundreds of flashing signals and prompts — “insights” and metrics. These “dashboards” are elevated far above the metaphorical tires and steering wheel. (Ugh! The wheel…that most mundane, archaic of inventions that is so apt in this analogy, because it is still arguably the most critical element that “drives us forward.”)

I wrote an earlier reflection titled Insights vs. Actions where I tried to contrast between all the signals (or noise) and actually taking action. Recently, I have been reminded again that while awareness of progress is important, it is not the same thing as actual progress. Designers of systems and interfaces are well aware of this need in us, and help (or spoil) us with all kinds of visual cues, to let us know how well we’re doing, how fast we’re going, or how far we’ve come. But none of these things is a substitute for a single step in the right direction.

As a parting shot, when direction is the issue, then you need a compass. And direction very often matters. I believe very strongly that direction matters more than speed. However, there is something that in the end probably matters a little more than direction and that is movement. You actually have to act, to take that step, launch that product, speak to that customer.

Actions create impact, not insights.



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Babatunde Mumuni

Babatunde Mumuni

I think and write here about life as one continuous experience, not fragments stitched together. I believe that we should partake of this with our whole selves.