An Outside Perspective

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A couple of miles from where I live is an intersection where a local panhandler has staked his claim. Day after day he’s there brandishing his sign, looking for donations. Most days I just drive by and wave; he always waves back. Occasionally I’ll give him a few bucks. Clearly the location is working for him, otherwise he would have moved on long ago. A few weeks ago, during a brief respite from the winter cold, I was driving along with my windows open, and as I came to a stop at the light at the intersection, I noticed my “local” was engaged in a conversation with another panhandler, whom I hadn’t seen before. I thought maybe they were having a turf battle, but then I overheard the new guy say these words to my local guy as he looked at my local’s sign:

“I really like your wording, but you should use a thicker marker.”

All of a sudden it hit me: This new guy’s not just another panhandler–he’s a consultant!

We can all use an outside perspective on our business from time to time. We can all use the help of an expert for those areas where we don’t have expertise. That’s why I have, as part of my “outside” team, a bookkeeper, an accountant, a graphic designer, and a web site consultant, among others. When I started my speaking business, I did all of these things myself in addition to my primary jobs of researching, writing, and delivering presentations. I thought I was saving money by doing it all myself. What I refused to see, of course, was that a job that took me hours or days could be done by an expert in minutes, leaving me with time I could spend more profitably doing the jobs I could do best–the jobs at which I was the expert. Bringing in experts enabled me to raise the level of my own work (and possibly, in the case of the bookkeeper and accountant, kept me out of jail).

The Beatles understood this as well. On February 18, 1965 the band was recording a new John Lennon song, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. For the first–but certainly not the last–time, the Beatles brought in an outside musician to help out. Johnnie Scott was a flute player who added the memorable flute solo to the end of this song from the Help! album. It raised an already fine song to a higher level. After that, the Beatles never hesitated to bring in an outside expert to help make the finished product better: a French horn player (Alan Civil) to play on Paul’s For No One, Eric Clapton to provide the breathtaking guitar solo on George’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, all the way up to a full symphony orchestra for the monumental A Day in the Life from the Sgt. Pepper album. The Beatles were the best in the world at what they did, yet they never thought it was “beneath them” to bring in better musicians if the end result warranted it.

If you find yourself 1) stuck in a creative rut, 2) faced with a challenge, or 3) spending too much time on tasks where you lack expertise, maybe it’s time to bring in an expert and get an outside perspective–whether your workplace is a recording studio or an intersection.

By the way, the next day when I drove through that intersection, my local panhandler was there with a brand new sign–written with a new, thicker marker. I gave him five bucks.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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