THE STRATEGY OF ACCEPTANCE
Life’s problems can’t be transformed unless we first accept the facts.
The strategy that forms the foundation of Omdenken is acceptance. It’s the mother of all Omdenken strategies because, in order to turn a problem into a new possibility – which is the very essence of Omdenken – we have to fully accept reality.
It’s easier said than done.
Letting go of our pre-conceived notions, our judgments, our ideas about how things should be, is very difficult. It takes discipline. It takes practice. Ultimately though, we can achieve a state of being in which it’s possible to see things as they truly are and to accept them as facts.
Have a look at these two real-world business examples of acceptance, which led to a classic case of Omdenken:
The Lipton Story
Around the year 1900, tea was only available as loose leaves packaged in tin cans. Unfortunately, the tin cans were quite expensive. Thomas Sullivan, a tea importer from New York, was getting beat by the competition and accepted that he had to take action. He decided to stop packaging tea in tin cans, but to put the leaves in silk bags instead. His motives were purely economical, as silk bags were cheaper than tin cans. The interesting part was that Sullivan had designed the silk bags to be packaging material, but his customers didn’t know that. Instead of opening the silk bags and removing the tea leaves, customers simply chucked the whole bag into the tea pot. Sullivan resisted the urge to tell his customers that they were ‘doing it wrong’ and accepted their behavior instead, developing the modern-day ‘tea bag’ in the process. The very first tea bags with string and label were sold in 1919 under the Lipton Tea brand.
You may now be thinking, “nice story, but how hard is it to accept customers’ behavior?” Fair question. In this case, it was a financial necessity for Sullivan to accept the situation. But what if we have to accept something that we morally disagree with? Theft, for example.
The Virgin Atlantic Story
It happened to Virgin Atlantic Airways. Virgin’s First Class passengers were always treated to good meals during flights, all of which were accompanied by cleverly designed salt and pepper shakers. The shakers were named Wilbur and Orville, an obvious nod to aviation’s pioneering Wright brothers. Passengers loved those salt and pepper shakers. In fact, they loved them so much that they conveniently slipped the shakers into their carry-on luggage, effectively stealing them from every flight. And these were First Class passengers! For the airline it was very expensive to replace them. In order to save money, the idea was put forward to discontinue their use. Richard Branson, the big boss at Virgin, wouldn’t hear of it. Instead of removing them, Branson cheekily added the following text to the salt and pepper shakers: “pinched from Virgin Atlantic.” And what happened next? Wilbur and Orville shakers continued to be stolen and have also become the most successful promotional campaign the airline has ever done. In addition to being a cool souvenir, the edgy text has turned the shakers into classic ‘conversation pieces’. It’s a witty story that’s easily told at any dinner table, and it boosts Virgin’s image as a ‘rebellious’ company.
The path of least resistance
The first strategy to transform problems into opportunities is acceptance. When you find a way to improve your ability to accept whatever reality life presents to you, you will find yourself on the path of least resistance. Often the best thing is to move with the problem instead of fighting against it.
Just like Lipton Tea, and Virgin Atlantic, find a way to improve your ability to accept whatever reality life presents you, no matter how hard it may seem. And remember, accepting things doesn’t make you a pushover, or someone who cannot stand up for himself. On the contrary. By moving in harmony with your surroundings, by fully accepting reality, you’ll be in a much better position to transform your problems into new possibilities.