Editor's Points: What's holding you back?

April 1, 2009
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I’m a creative thinker, and I’ve always excelled at generating new ideas. Unfortunately, I’m equally skilled at sabotaging most of those ideas before they ever have a chance to become reality.

Either there’s not enough time or money to pursue them or--more likely--I’m so deeply entrenched in my current routine that I just don’t have enough internal motivation to make the necessary changes. I would like to say that it’s the economy, my workload or life in general that’s holding me back. But the reality is that if I’m not pursuing my ideas and achieving my goals, I have only myself to blame.

Dr. Robert Kriegel, a business motivational speaker and New York Times and BusinessWeek best-selling author,* notes that most people have a tendency to be reactive rather than proactive. When times are tough, like they are now, our typical response is to become more focused on the tasks at hand and work harder and faster. However, this approach obstructs communication, increases the risk of mistakes and hinders the development of new ideas. Instead, to be successful, “you have to step back from the action,” Kriegel said during the second keynote address at the Trimble Dimensions 2009 International User Conference in February.

Kriegel challenged the audience to try one different thing every week to spark new ideas and avoid doing things out of habit. “You should always feel a little anxious and a little uncomfortable because that’s a sign that you’re trying something new,” he said.

Anxious and uncomfortable … I think we’re all pretty familiar with those feelings these days. But the question is whether we’re being controlled by the situation or taking charge of it. Real leaders, according to Kriegel, are always challenging the status quo and looking for bold, innovative opportunities--and then pursuing them. They create change rather than just responding to it.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to speak with some of these types of leaders in our profession. These individuals have taken risks in expanding their services into areas such as GIS, mapping, laser scanning, 3D modeling, consulting or other capabilities. More often than not, their approach has paid off through increased business and a more sustainable business model.

I’ve also talked with some individuals who have scoffed at new technologies and ideas. One person at the 2009 ACSM Conference in Salt Lake City told me: “It’s going to take me a lifetime to learn everything I need to know about boundary surveying. I don’t need to learn about laser scanning or any of those other new technologies.” Really? I have to wonder where this individual will be in 10 years. Even if he is somehow fortunate enough to be comfortably ensconced in a secure, well-paid position doing exactly what he enjoys (which certainly isn't likely), he will have missed out on a host of other opportunities simply because he didn’t want to know what other possibilities existed.

We owe it to ourselves to break down our internal barriers and think in broad terms. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to expand our own field of expertise--there are only so many hours in the day, after all, and tight budgets due to the economy are a reality that we have to face. But what if we developed strategic partnerships to go after other areas of business in fields such as energy and infrastructure? What if we learned as much as possible about cutting-edge technologies and processes so that we could become a valuable resource for our clients? Perhaps there are technologies we could easily incorporate into our businesses, such as GIS, that would allow us to pursue new markets.

When we stop thinking about the limitations and focus on the possibilities, anything is within reach.

To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia.

* For more information about Kriegel’s books and ideas, visit

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