The truth is many people go through life in the reactive mode. Others make the leap to proactive. But, being proactive is not enough in today’s business world. The special few move beyond proactivity and become innovative.
Where do most individuals and organization land?
- 60% Reactive Mode = Run To It
- 35% Proactive Mode = Plan For It
- 5% Innovative Mode = Have Another Plan
I was a slalom skier in high school. We were taught that if we turned at the slalom pole we were too late. The time to make the turn was uphill from the pole.
The truly smooth skiers did not carve sharp angled turns in the snow beside the gates. For them the turn began a few feet before the gate. Therefore when they reached the gate, they were already pointing towards the next one. That is similar to the difference between the Reactive and the Proactive.
What about the Innovators? They are the ones who were the first to do the race on a snowboard.
The Reactive Mode dooms individuals and organizations to mediocrity and the status quo. The Proactive Mode places people and organizations a step ahead of others. When these same people and organizations become innovative, they are so far in front people at first stare and then begin to mimic.
The Reactive see an opportunity and run to it. The Proactive plan ahead before that opportunity emerges. The Innovative have another plan and gain an opportunity no one else sees.
The Reactive Mode – 60%
“There’s an opportunity! Go get it!” That’s the Reactive Mode in the best of situations. I used to see this in new employees. They did not have the experience yet to be proactive let alone innovative.
They worked hard. When an opportunity presented itself, they ran and got it. I was happy with that in their early stages of employment. But, I knew if they did not grow out of that mode, I would be stuck with at best an average performer.
“Uh oh! We have to turn or we’ll miss it!” That’s the Reactive Mode in the worst of situations. Everything tends to be a surprise and needs immediate attention.
The Reactive Mode makes the individual or team feel like they are in a constant game of tag. They see an opportunity and run to it. Sometimes it is still there and other times it is not.
They often deliver a proposal right at the deadline. A quick meeting is held describing the great opportunity, but this opportunity has a fast approaching deadline.
The person or the team quickly puts together the best proposal they can by working extra hours and putting off regular work or family requirements to get it done.
More often than not, their proposal is turned down because their competition was there first and better prepared. Each contract won is a big deal and can be a lifeline to the struggling person or team.
Stress is a constant companion for these people or organizations.
The Proactive Mode – 35%
In the Proactive Mode, the individual or the organization is looking ahead. They are scanning the business horizon for the next opportunity. They are always preparing for the next opportunity.
These people are usually the first ones to deliver proposals to a potential client. They knew when their competitor’s contract with that client ended and spent the last 90 days preparing the best proposal possible.
These people and organizations are often confident and successful followers of truly innovative. The Proactive often stop here because of their success. The special few move beyond proactivity to being innovative.
The Innovative Mode – 5%
The special few become innovative. They are the ones who don’t just see opportunities early. They create new opportunities!
Innovative individuals and organizations have already grown beyond proactivity. They realized being proactive lumped them in with the strong 35%.
They don’t mind competing, but they just don’t like rolling the dice against tough competition in a crowded race. In the Proactive Mode, others will still win their fair share. The Innovative don’t accept that.
The Innovative do not present a proposal to the client the other two groups are competing for. The Innovative propose a new product or service to that client. Or, they find another client where no one else is competing so they can negotiate larger margins or longer contracts.
The Innovative consistently ask themselves:
- What is no one else doing?
- How can we do this better than anyone else?
- Where is no one else going?
- Who can I serve that no one else is serving?
Energy and creativity ooze from these people and organizations. They are relaxed but never content because innovation is their key to success.
The Bottom Line:
Any individual or organization can progress or regress from one mode to another and back again. The only time reactivity should be accepted is during the learning curve many of us experience early on.
If I am experienced and caught in the Reactive Mode, I need to break from my old habits and begin to scan the horizon for new opportunities. If I do that, I will upgrade my performance and join The Proactive 35%. But, The Proactive will always be followers and a step behind The Innovators.
Once I am firmly entrenched and proactive, I need to take the final step that only 5% seem to take. I need to innovate and never settle.
The Innovators create. The Proactive see what’s happening and follow. The Reactive wonder what happened and play catch-up.
The Innovators are relaxed but never content. The Proactive feel confident and successful. The Reactive are stressed.
Turning sharply at the slalom pole causes the ski’s edges to dig into the snow and slow everything down. Turning before the pole allows the skis to glide on their slick waxed surfaces and reduces the friction thus increasing the speed.
It’s a different world for the snowboarder. The snowboarder looks at the skiers and are thankful they are alone on the snowboard.
Where are you? Are you stuck in the reactive mode or settling for being proactive?