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Is the Blob eating your business?

Stephen Balzac | May 19, 2015
At a very basic level, red tape exists to make people feel safe.

The issue here is that the longer a business exists, the more time there is for something to go wrong. Sometimes these mistakes represent serious problems that need to be prevented. Sometimes, they are the normal cost of doing business or of trying out new ideas. Innovation, for example, is an activity filled with mistakes. It's that old, but true, line about a thousand ways to not make a light bulb. Unfortunately, telling the difference between different kinds of mistakes can be challenging. Understanding which types of mistakes must be prevented and which ones only help feed the Blob is not always simple. The net result is that they all feed the Blob.

However, on the bright side, dealing with the Blob really only requires recognizing that it exists. Unlike the actual Blob, bureaucracies are famously slow-moving — red tape is sticky. The reason it is sticky is that it provides people with a sense of security. No one can be blamed for following procedure, even if following procedure means that nothing gets done. The trick, therefore, to getting things done or getting new ideas accepted is not to rush people; rushing people only makes them dig in their heels. Instead, ask how you can make it easy for them to do what you want. How can you allay their fears and make them feel safe as they grease the wheels?

It can help considerably to take the time to hear their concerns. What are they afraid of? What's really bothering them about your ideas? Much of the time, it's simply that the idea is new. Help people become familiar with your idea: when it's no longer feeling quite so new, it's easier to accept. Take the time to ask them questions about how the status quo is getting in their way. Let them tell you what's wrong, and then ask them for suggestions on how to improve the situation. Your goal, simply put, is to ask the questions that will let them have your way. Do it right, and they'll end up volunteering to cut through the red tape for you and then trying to convince you that your idea is good enough to run with.

In other words, you can't defeat the Blob, but you can get the Blob to defeat itself. It's less exciting than in the movie, but a whole lot more effective.


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