Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We Sell Holes

Several months ago, my university invited Dr. Tim Elmore to come to campus and speak to a group of campus leaders.  It was an encouragement session  - not so much of an academic session - and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised and appreciative of his time and presentation.  
One of his more potent anecdotes included this story.  I have cut and pasted an article here.  His applied it to a call for colleges and universities to remember that they need to be about the mission and not the method - and that the two are not mutually exclusive.  I'm still wrestling with its tangible applicability - but I do feel that there is some truth to take away here.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  
Below is an excerpt: 
A drill company hired a new president to lead them. They were excited about the future and wanted the president to see how much market share they owned in their industry. On his first day, department managers gave speeches on their company’s control over the bit market. Selling 60 percent of all drill bits purchased in America, they couldn’t help but be proud of their status and optimistic about their prospects.
Following their bold speeches, the president stood up and responded. After thanking them for their remarks, he presented them with a harsh reality.
“While I’m excited about our drill bit sales, you’re forgetting one important detail — there is no market for drill bits.” He paused and smiled. “The market is for holes.”
Those employees were reminded of an important principle that day. They had focused so intently on their product — their method for making a hole — they forgot it was only the means to an end. People buy drill bits to make a hole and the moment someone comes up with a better way to make a hole, the drill bit becomes obsolete.