Timing may not be everything, but it's pretty close.

Bad timing can make a meeting a waste of time, a new product die a premature death, and a piece of research invalid. Timing is probably one of the most critical aspects that determines success; yet one that is the least thought through.

For a new product we spend months and months (if not years) researching, developing, testing, and pushing through 'gates' to then launch at a certain (unique) moment in time. How much time was spent on thinking about the right time to launch (beyond simple aspects such as seasons)? Or was the timing simply when the system allowed us to finish?

Many business meetings are critical. Selling in a strategy. Gaining approval to press forward with a project. How much time do we spend thinking about the best time to have the meeting? Or is it simply when diaries align?

Thinking about timing is not just important pre, it's important post. Once you have completed something and you are reviewing whether or not it was a success, what emphasis do you put on timing? And if you deem it to be 'bad timing' or 'good timing', how much effort do you put into working out 'why' and 'how'?

Can you handle living in a messy 'room'?

When we explore any situation and pull apart the thinking that exists, it gets messy. Mid way through the exploration we will be surrounded by piles of facts, assumptions, misinformation, inferences and conclusions. There will be contradictions, tensions, and fogginess. Some of the thinking will be right. Some of it will be wrong. And it's often hard to tell which is which. Ambiguity will reign supreme.

When we ideate, it also gets messy. Mid way through any creative process we will be surrounded by piles of ideas and thinking that's new, old, stolen, ridiculous, pragmatic (possibly a tad boring), exciting, half-baked, complete, good, and bad.

If you're like most people, at that moment every fibre in your body will scream "clean this mess up". And most people rush to do just that. They slash, burn, kill most of the thinking and ideas around them to arrive at 'the answer'... as quick as they can.

The problem with that is the answer is often not obvious and is well buried in the mess. If it was obvious and sitting neatly on top, you would have found it by now (and so would your competition).

So hang out in your messy room for as long as you can. Embrace the mess and play with it for a while. Get to know it. The real unique, exciting, compelling answer(s) will slowly show themselves; and hopefully your competition rushed to clean their mess up and missed them.

What's your "I'm wrong" recovery time?

An article I read recently explored what they felt was the key determinant of successful people in business. After a lot of research and digging, they came to the simple conclusion that successful people seem to recover incredibly fast when they fail or get rejected; they bounce back immediately, move on, and go after the next opportunity.

Unsuccessful people tend to retreat, go quiet, lick their wounds. Their activity comes to a halt and they become gun shy. Over time they emotionally work through 'things' and pluck up the courage to go at it again.

This also applies to how people deal with their thinking. Productive, efficient and effective thinking changes quickly. It evolves, adapts and is dynamic and responsive. It helps a business move quickly, tackle problems, and capture opportunities. Thinking that's the opposite, slows the business down and becomes out of tune with the fast-paced changes happening in the world.

A critical aspect to productive and dynamic thinking is the ability of people within a business to quickly admit when they are wrong and move on in the same breath. Most of the time it's the opposite, slowing the business down.

Which leads me to my challenge. Next time you realise you're wrong (and there will be a next time), be cognisant of how long it took to accept it, and how long it takes you to recover?

What are your birds?

Birds are highly attuned to their environment. Without a cloud in the sky and no obvious signs, they have the ability to sense a distant storm (due to atmospheric changes in pressure). Worms can sense rising ground water before it reaches them. Sharks flee to deep water when they sense a hurricane approaching.

We (humans) don't have that sensibility. So small tribes of people living in and around animals use any change in their behaviour as a sign that something is about to happen.

When trouble looms in the distance for your business, and it's not clearly identifiable, what are your signs? What are your birds?

Some signs, like falling sales and market share, are blunt and probably a sign that you are in the storm right now (so aren't useful as an early warning system). However there are other signs. How the category is acting. Staff attrition. Ongoing customer panels. How your staff behave. Trend watching. How your channel is behaving.

The point I'm trying to make is... how well attuned are you to what's about to happen in your market, or are you just reacting to any storm you're in right now?

What are your birds?