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25 Oct 2010

A Blue Heron Instructs on Patience

We live in an activist business culture, meaning we are biased toward action to solve problems. For instance, reorganizations often occur simply to show something is being done when most of the time they achieve very little. In reality, neither action nor inaction is better; it all depends upon the situation. Intuitive approaches often involve positioning which requires patience.

One day my wife and I were having a picnic lunch along the Cuyahoga River during a hike. At the inside corner of a bend in the river stood a Blue Heron. My wife asked what I thought he was doing there just standing. I told her he was waiting for a fish.

About twenty minutes went by when my wife said, “I don’t think he’s waiting for a fish; it has been a long time. I would just go after the fish.” Within a minute of telling her she would never catch one with that approach because the fish were much quicker, the Heron stabbed his head downward and retrieved a fish.

In business, people will encourage us to take action even when it’s not the best option. In nature, many animals, like the Heron, lie and wait for their opportunities. Sometimes we need to position ourselves for opportunities to maximize our returns and minimize our costs, but it’s often discounted by the urge to act. Real estate is an excellent example. It’s about “location, location, location.” That real estate is lying and waiting until the benefits from its location are reaped.

In our everyday business lives, we are often prejudiced to force a bad position just so we can feel action oriented, sooth our egos or look good politically. Resisting such temptation is challenging; patience requires more discipline than action.

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1 Response

  1. How about a follow-up post with some more examples of business situations where one might be best waiting? Do you have any examples coming from other cultures that might be contrasted with U.S. culture?

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