Epiphanies, Aha! Moments, and the Satisfaction Gap

15 November 2011

JH2 John Hemphill, Axxos Director

In Austrian villages, on 6th January each year, local bands move from house to house playing oompah music and chalking the initials of the Magi (BCM) on the door lintels. It is Epiphany, and the initials are supposed to bring the house good luck for the coming year.

To borrow from Wikipedia; an epiphany ”is the sudden realisation or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something”: Or an Aha! Moment when a solution to an unsolved problem magically presents itself. Business epiphanies can be very important.

On a recent high growth SME management program we had a number of these reported by businesses attending: • Importance of understanding margins - need to fix the inadequacies of the costing discipline in a manufacturing business; • Need for customer feelings of urgency about the problem being addressed – business focused on the wrong customers; • Balanced team for growth – based on the Axxos Spearhead there was a team problem because everyone wanted to be at the pointy, Opportunity Development end; • Balanced team for growth – based on Myers Briggs Type Indicator the team was unbalanced with the three principals with the same personality profiles; • Reporting, chart of accounts, business model – it was unnecessary to create a new company to bring new product to market.

Each of these realisations was seminal to how each of these businesses might successfully go forward.

Where do these valuable moments come from?

Most usually from a change of environment when you get away from the boiling frog syndrome of being so absorbed in the business you stop noticing things. Things that seem to work include:

• Aerobic exercise where those endorphins get going - and the mind frees up; • Holidays where you get away from the constant pressure and distractions of phone calls, emails, minor and major decisions – and the mind frees up; • Out-of-the-business activities like conferences and learning programs where the mind frees up – but there is also new input to stimulate thinking; and a group environment to stimulate thinking as well; • And, constantly asking questions of others.

What also works, is having access to a new a framework for thinking about business (as we provided in the high growth program described above). This helps you towards more immediately useful Aha! Moments.

Implicit in this sort of Aha! Moment is an underlying belief that the business can and should, be improved. People with this view have the openness of mind to seize worthwhile ideas and recognitions, rather than defensively dismissing them. They have a Satisfaction Gap with their performance, and know it can be better. The question is how?

The Aha! Moment Map distils our experience. Stick it to your bathroom wall.