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5 questions Nike’s founder uses to deal with change

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Shit just hit the fan…

Do you rush to the next first logical step?

Do you let your emotions override your brain?

Or do you just freeze and give up?

Nike’s founder Phil Knight uses a very simple and applicable process.

When he had suspicions that their Japanese supplier, Onitsuka wanted to acquire his company (back then called Blue Ribbon), he needed to act fast.

Or he’d have lost everything he worked so hard for.

In his mind, there was no time to waste, only opportunity to take advantage of.

So he sat back in his recliner, and asked himself 5 questions in what he calls his “nightly self-catechism” (from “Shoe Dog”):

  1. What do you know? I know Onitsuka can’t be trusted.
  2. What else do you know? I know my relationship with Kitami can’t be salvaged.
  3. What does the future hold? One way or another, Blue Ribbon and Onitsuka are going to break up. I just need to stay together as long as possible while I develop other supply sources, so I can manage the breakup.
  4. What’s Step One? I need to scare off all the other distributors Onitsuka has lined up to replace me. Blast them right out of the water, by firing off letters threatening to sue if they breach my contract.
  5. What’s Step Two? Find my own replacement for Onitsuka.”

I love how simple yet effective this framework is.

And how it forces you to deal with reality – as it is – not as you’d wish it to be.

It’s practical brainstorming.

All great leaders use some version of it.

What makes it great in my opinion?

First, the double checking on what the “knowns” are.

There’s no time to think of all the unknowns, focus on what you know and on what you can control.

And then question it some more to dig deeper.

Don’t just trust your first insight.

Second, the sequence of action steps…

With the first one he paves the way for the second. And they are both actionable. And the answers can be verified with Yes/No questions.

Third, the middle step is where the magic lies – the intuitive and open ended aspect.

He couldn’t have known Onitsuka was about to breakup their relationship unless he was 100% tuned into the situation. This is all about paying attention to subtle cues and being immersed in your business (market, and suppliers included).

This model could be compared to the OODA loop used by navy seals:

  • Observe
  • Orient
  • Decide
  • Act

It’s effective because it forces you to stop, think and then it propels you into action.

Do you need to pivot, reposition your business and messaging or simply adjust your marketing strategy?

Chances are a similar approach can help you.

If you want help with any of it, get in touch.

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