Exploring New Paths
By Helene Mazur
Sep 19, 2002 - 4:05:00 PM


This summer while vacationing on a lake in Maine, I had the luxury of exploring on my kayak. Sitting down low and drifting slowly through clear water allows you to sneak up on turtles and loons and study nature above and below the surface. While the images and sounds are fixed in my mind, the actual scene right now is probably quite different.

Change happens outside of our control on a regular basis. Sometimes it is predicable, sometimes not. Whether or not we can anticipate and plan for change, there are always a new set of opportunities to explore.


Most change initiatives in business are created in direct reaction to a shift in the business environment; what was once effective no longer works. Without planning, our reactions are often extreme. Sometimes we act impulsively, and sometimes we sit too long on the sidelines. Although we might be feeling overwhelmed or resigned, strategic planning can help develop a good set of viable alternatives within a new framework.

A good way to begin 'strategic thinking' is to remind yourself why you chose the business or industry you came to be in. What were your hopes or aspirations at the time? While probably not at the top of your thoughts, the core values that attracted you once are most certainly still important to you.

Next take the time to identify a list of individual and organizational strengths that you can offer to others right now.


There are so many good models and exercises to stimulate new possibilities. Below I offer you four independent ideas to consider; perhaps one of them will be worth developing depending on your unique situation.

1. Positioning

In any business environment, it is important to differentiate your business or offering in a relevant, meaningful way based on your unique competencies and strengths.

A strategic planning framework often used to capture a picture of where you stand right now, is called SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or gap analysis. This process can help you identify the best opportunities by mapping out organizational strengths to focus on, weaknesses to minimize, the market situation, customer needs and the competitive environment.

If you are interested in reading more about SWOT go to

2. Productivity

Whether you face increased competition, or simply don't want to work as hard as you have in the past, you can become more efficient by focusing on what you do best.

In 1906 Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that twenty percent of the Italian people owned eighty percent of their country's accumulated wealth. Over time and through application in a variety of environments, the concept has become know as "The Pareto Principle", "The 80-20 Rule", or "The Vital Few and Trivial Many Rule". The rule states that a small number of causes is responsible for a large percentage of the effect in a ratio of about 20:80. In a management context, the theory is that 20% of a person's effort will often generate 80% of their results.

The challenge is to distinguish the right 20% from the trivial many. Once you start looking, you will find powerful implications in every area of your business

Do 20 percent of your products account for 80 percent of product sales?
Do 80 percent of your visitors see only 20 percent of you web pages?
Does 20 percent of your sales force produce 80 percent of the revenues?
Is 80 percent of your time spent on many trivial activities?

What competencies are bringing you the majority of your results? Once you figure this out the idea is to focus!

3. Partnering

Forming an alliance with a complementary organization should benefit both partners. With a solid alliance plan and strategy the chances of success greatly increase. Planning often begins with a search for alliance partners. The very first step should be identifying your own core competencies.

Once you can talk about what you bring to the table, you can then start drafting a list of competencies that can complement your business by filling critical holes, creating new areas of value or extending key advantages. Then, start identifying partners with strength in those areas.

4. Personal Planning

For any of you who are in transition, thinking about transition, trying to build a motivated productive team, or are simply reevaluating your own strengths, I offer you a long quote from Dr. Mel Levine's A Mind at a Time.

The book is intended primarily for parents, educators and doctors, but I think it has valuable information for anyone trying to better understand themselves and others. In fascinating detail Dr. Levine describes how the brain of each human is unique. The book explains very specifically how different minds learn differently, and drives home the point that with better understanding, we can help others (especially children) build on their strengths.

"Each of us is endowed with a highly complex, inborn circuitry-creating innumerable branching pathways of options and obstacles. While some of us have brains that are wired to handle a lot of information at once, others have brains that can absorb and process only a little information at a time (often with greater accuracy). While some of us have brains that store and retrieve from memory with precision and speed, others possess brains that access facts more slowly or with less precision. Some kinds of minds prefer to dream up their own original thoughts rather than drawing upon the ideas of others, and vice versa. Although some of us have minds that are more comfortable and effective visualizing complex political or even religious ideas, others are apt to do much of their thinking in words and sentences. So it is that we all live with minds wired to excel in one area and crash in another. Hopefully we discover and engage in good matches between our kind of mind and our pursuits in life"


Change presents us with a different set of opportunities. Find new ways to build on your strengths.

Helene Mazur is President of Princeton Performance Dynamics, a business coach, and group facilitator, helping professionals and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. Contact her at 609-924-9399 [email protected]

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