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See the Big Picture and Stir Things Up

In ancient Greece, privileged countrymen consumed a sacred drink called barley wine containing barley, grated cheese, and wine. But the if drink was not kept in a constant state of movement, the contents would harden and became undrinkable.

Just like the barley wine, if we settle for comfortable routines, our thinking becomes rigid and our practice becomes stale. Remaining stagnant isn’t human nature – and it shouldn’t be in your organization’s, either.

Stan Soloway, CEO at Professional Services Council, told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program how he embraced change in order to reform his company with the changing times.

PSC is the national trade association of the government professional and technology services industry. The association shapes public policy, leads strategic coalitions, and works to build consensus between government and industry. After surveying the marketplace, the CEO directed the company to look toward the future and not back at the past.

Soloway also catered to the evolving market by shuffling the organization’s structure. “We decided to reorganize the association around two key pillars, one being our longstanding leadership around acquisition and business policy, and the other around technology policy.”

In a world of specialization, the value of conceptualizing the ‘big picture’ is becoming lost. “We’ve spent too much time in the niches, and too much time in narrow silos,” Soloway said. “So we talk about IT acquisitions as if it’s a discrete thing and very often increasingly it is not. It’s part and parcel for much broader a market. So, it’s this holistic and broad look.”

An imaginary divide exists among those who see the tech world as vibrant, young and innovating, and government as obsolete.

“I think we really have to overcome collectively this perception that there is a technology world out there,” said Soloway. “Let’s just use the adjective silicon valley, because it’s not just in Silicon Valley, that has something that the government desperately needs, and that the folks who’ve been in the government market for a while actually don’t have anything the government needs; that there’s this we/they kind a world.”

Recent startups like Uber and Airbnb illustrate how consumers are attracted to businesses that offer efficiency and convenience over traditional practice. The government needs to keep pace with the marketplace so it doesn’t retain obsolete legislation limiting public interest.

“You want to break down the barriers to allow those companies to come in and compete directly. It’s all about how the customer behaves, because the market’s going to respond to the customer. Don’t put it at the feet of the companies even if you think that they’re calcified and they don’t want the competition,” said Soloway.

In 2014, the consumer directs the business, not the other way around. Businesses who try to veer customer activity instead of catering to their needs will falter in today’s landscape. It’s important to gather valuable information and utilize it in order to improve your business.

“Customer knowledge is everything,” said Soloway. “Companies that have been longtime members and are our biggest supporters who say ‘look, we’re going through another internal scrub. Can you come in and talk about what you’re doing and so forth?’ Because they’re constantly looking at it, and you’ve got to constantly be evolving with the times. You can’t be Sears Roebuck.”

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