Dunkirk. The Blitz spirit. Famous examples where people displayed an extraordinary courage and pulled together in a cohesive manner not seen in calmer, safer times.
Threat brings humans closer together. Focus becomes sharper, clearer, streamlined and more meaningful – whether the threat turns out to be real or imagined.
Without this, we live in a protected, insulated state – hidden in public sector service or a corner of a corporation, far from the realities of real life. And without a clear threat, a real risk exists of wasted resource, repetition, lack of energy, low or no risk appetite, innovation or initiative.
Pick an Enemy – before it picks on you.
Consider the financial industry; until 8 years ago a slow-moving dinosaur. Throw in the threat of technology and regulation change, and lo and behold there are start-ups left right and centre; Metro Bank, Paragon, Funding Circle, Nutmeg, Atom, Bank of Dave anyone?
And this has forced the old school to fight for their survival. Banks like Natwest and Lloyds are displaying an energy not seen for years. And it was that lack of an enemy for so long that led the bloated, unfit-for-purpose industry to collapse when a large one eventually found it in the shape of ill-advised products, corruption and flawed regulation.
How do you pick your Enemy?
Carefully. This must be a real war – one raged from the heart. An enemy is not a ‘going bust’ or a ‘poor cash flow’ – these are mandatory, universal business threats. No, this needs to be a very specific enemy that threatens your business or industry sector.
It must be a battle you have collectively recognised, understood and agreed to fight, or it’s not an enemy but a phoney war in the guise of another tedious corporate initiative that no-one truly understands. For great examples of real enemies think Volvo & unsafe cars, Innocent & unnatural ingredients, Virgin & being the same as others.
Gain energy from your Enemy
A common threat creates new energy and purpose. Think of Avis’ decades old “We try harder” campaign. Bravely announcing to the world that their enemy was ‘not being good enough to be Number 1’.
They used this to inspire themselves to greater performance and in turn, sales rose from a 10% annual increase to a 35% annual increase. Go to their website and one of the first things you’ll see is a button that says: We Try Harder. The ‘enemy’ is 40 years old now, but it remains alive and raging and continues to drive their ambition and growth.
How your Enemy could you make you the most powerful man in the world…
Donald Trump. He is ridiculous to many, but he is taking America by storm. Why? Because he unites them against a common enemy: the sense of being under threat from every side. Trump will beat the enemy up, regulate him to death, even build a wall around him…he’ll do anything against this enemy he has created. And the fact the enemy may not really exist? The ‘energy of the threat’ is stronger than the detail, and it may even have the power to change the very world we live in.
Your purpose needs an Enemy…
Enemies give you the greatest gift; your truest purpose. They strengthen your focus. Strengthen your goals. Your clarity. Your point of difference. Your measurement criteria. So find your enemy now, declare war on it and start tasting the sweet taste of focus and energy.
Or wait, and it may just come and find you instead.
Please comment on or share this article so others can create greater focus through their enemy. I’d love to hear who your enemy is?