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When Paranoia Turns Productive

By Joey Havens

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This blog is the third in the series, Are We Really Choosing to Be Great?

So far in this series, we have explored two common attributes that Jim Collins discovered in his research of high-performing companies—FANATIC DISCIPLINE and EMPIRICAL CREATIVITY. The third and last attribute is PRODUCTIVE PARANOIA. These companies, although things were going well, always had a heavy amount of paranoia which led to making changes before they had to. They assume conditions will turn against them, at perhaps the worst possible moment. They are always preparing for when, not if, the next big disruption is going to happen.  

Let’s pick up the mirror of productive paranoia and look deep within our firms, what do we really see?

  • Do we see complacency or paranoia?
  • Do we hear conversations about how good it’s going or why we must change now?
  • Do we feel energy driving change or driving consensus?
  • Do we hear chatter about change or see action?
  • Do we focus on doing things right or doing the right things?
  • Do we see historical facts or future facts?
  • Can we hear outside competitor footsteps of disruption knocking on our profession’s front door?

This is not designed to call anyone out as the truths in each one will apply in different degrees to each of us and our firms. What I do know is that there’s some applicable truth in each one and as a whole, there’s a lot of truth that our profession as a whole needs to embrace. And by the way I’m writing these blogs as much for my own teams’ benefit as the profession. We want to have these same hard conversations in every team at HORNE. 

Today one of our biggest challenges might be recognizing that our current beliefs do not necessarily represent the truth of tomorrow’s reality. I would suggest that the first step each of us needs to take is one where we establish a shared vision of our future state. What are the future facts that we need to anticipate changing our business model and how we serve clients? Until we share a common vision of the future, we will be throwing a lot of legacy solutions at symptoms rather than at what the real disruption might be. 

A quickly changing future can cause big disruption in a proud legacy profession that is not known for being creative. Let’s embrace that we are great at being responsive but not so much at being proactive. So let’s drop the historian visor and pick up the anticipatory hat! 

If it takes a little paranoia to keep our profession great and relevant, then let’s get paranoid! Let’s choose to be great! With Fanatic Discipline, Empirical Creativity and Productive Paranoia, we can #beEvenBetter.