“And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But ev’ry now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?”
Help! – McCartney & Lennon / The Beatles
Even the most independently oriented people in the world will, at some point, realize that they need help. Maybe the help comes from another person. Maybe the help comes from a book. Maybe the help comes from a friendly canine. Maybe the help comes from a well-timed summer breeze on a way too hot day. Help comes in many forms. Plus, we are all helped (sometimes hurt) by the circumstances around us in every day of life… the light of the day, the atmosphere and magnetic fields that shield us from too much radiation, the human and mechanical supply chains that bring food and energy to us, the civil society and cultural norms that allow us to interact with others. If one stops, just for a few moments of time, and thinks about how much “help” is in daily life, the enormity of the dependence every single soul has upon the just right characteristics and circumstances of a day can become overwhelming. But let’s pull that back just a little bit and not be overwhelmed.
Why do people so often overlook that fact that they need help every day? That’s especially true in running organizations. Yes, businesses and not-for-profit ventures are out there creating value in the world (one hopes) and determining the best ways to match value with customers and other stakeholders. They search for ways to create that value as efficiently and effectively as possible. They develop competencies while trying to set themselves apart from the competition. Yet, they often forget to ask about what enables the value creation to exist and last over time. Oh sure, the key resources and capabilities often leap out at the casual observers of an organization. Noting a cutting edge technology, superior service, or the strength of an intangible brand image that creates value in the world is often easy. But what about… all… the… other… enablers???
Maybe people overlook, at times, the enablers behind key resources and capabilities because they aren’t as obvious, as flashy, as shiny as the big ticket doodads. After all, how exciting can an accounting software package be, really? But, an organization needs good accounting software, somebody to use the software effectively, or needs to hire a company who knows how to do accounting really well. Accounting systems enable an organization to know where capital is moving and how much value is being consumed (costs) and created (revenue). Accounting is a very necessary enabler for almost everybody (perhaps not the government, though… but that’s a whole ‘nother topic).
Maybe that accounting example is too obvious. What about a less obvious enabler that needs to be in place, like… Sarah Sue, the account manager who makes the client contacts a pleasant experience for every single client every time. Sure, the Nifty-Slick Company has a great product made with the latest do-hickies and thingmabobs. Clients do tend to like the product. But you know what, it’s really Sarah Sue calling the clients, keeping track of their important due dates, always being on time with just the right information about the Nifty-Slick Company’s use of the latest do-hickie that really makes the sales happen. Why? Because the clients are people who like to be treated well. Sarah Sue enables the introduction of clients to the Nifty-Slick Company’s products. Hmm… I wonder if the owner of the Nifty-Slick Company really knows why the clients are usually so receptive to the latest do-hickie and thingmabob. I wonder.
How about another type of enabler, one that stops the erosion of value creation or rareness in the market? Suppose I have a trademark for my brand and people respond well to the trademark. It makes people feel all warm and fuzzy when they see it, so they have good thoughts about my splendiferous service that I provide to them. Guess what, if I don’t have a super good IP attorney in my list of contacts, I might be in trouble. Why? Because suppose somebody out there creates a very similar brand image and starts slapping it on competing products. If I don’t have that super good IP attorney on speed-dial and ready to go to the court and file an injunction lickety-split, my brand might be damaged, maybe irreparably, maybe quickly. Having that IP attorney relationship ready to go enables me to stop the erosion of my brand image and probably collect some punitive damages from the scofflaw who tried to confuse my customers.
So, admit it. You need help. You need enablers in your organization, in your life, to make sure that all those important resources and capabilities that so captivate your attention and create value for you can do their work. Enablers may not be the shiny jewels that attract the attention, but they often are necessary pieces to complete the puzzle and see the full picture of how to create value and rareness. The Beatles may have felt a little insecure when writing the lyrics to Help!, but insecurity is not a necessary condition to know that everyone needs some help. In fact, realizing that you need enablers, that you cannot live life without a lot of help in every day, that’s a step toward strength. Recognizing the enablers, supporting your key resources and capabilities with enablers, stopping the erosion of value and rareness with enablers… that’s a way to stop being insecure.