Change the lens, not the game

There’s always a lot of analysis and commentary following elections, and the morning after Ontario’s latest provincial election is no different. So, Mr McGuinty got a minority. Some suggest he’s ‘savoring’ victory, given the last Liberal to achieve governing status three times in a row was Oliver Mowat, a father of Canadian confederation in the 1880s. Others suggest he’s been ‘put on a short leash’ and will probably leave before his full term is complete. Half full, half empty, but I guess neither fully full nor completely empty.

So what is a politician to do in a scenario like this? Likely, what anyone else who faces some kind of obstacle would: change the game (ie. quit) or change the lens. I suggest the latter. Looking at the problem, challenge or opportunity from a different perspective is always a good place to start. I’ll give you an example from my days in candy land.

We had a pretty impressive candy cane business at the time. We had 93% market share. But our candy cane business was woefully unprofitable. There were many reasons for this, so I won’t spend any time oversimplifying. What I will say is that one challenge our factory spent a lot of time (and therefore money) on, was getting a consistent stripe on each cane. Yes, this is what people in the confectionery industry lose sleep over! Imagine, hours of recalibrating machinery, taking it apart, putting it back together, trying different layouts of hot sugar versus cold sugar etc. All to get consistent striping. Was that REALLY what was making our business unprofitable?

How about turning that perceived failing into an opportunity? The candy cane business is all about commodity – who’s got the best price – except maybe when you turn it into an art. How about scaling back, focusing on the artisanal qualities: “handmade (practically) candy canes, no two identical, just like snow flakes.” Unique! People eat that up, and pay big bucks for it, at Starbucks. Just a thought. Not one that anyone ever followed up on and that’s okay. We sold the business, and today it continues to plod along, trying to win more market share by having the cheapest price, still worrying about the lack of consistent striping.

Not everybody gets it, not everybody will, and sometimes changing the lens doesn’t work. But it’s worth a try. If I were Dalton McGuinty today, I’d be thinking about the opportunities inherent in this new situation, versus agonizing over the lack of consistent striping (in a minority government – you see how I pulled it together, right?), or planning my nearest escape route. But maybe that’s just me.