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2009 NGCOA Annual Conference

Futurist urges attendees to embrace change at NGCOA Conference

There’s an urban legend about a U.S. Naval ship sailing off the coast of Newfoundland a decade ago. According to folklore, the captain of the ship radioed ahead to what appeared to be a Canadian vessel on the ship’s radar.

‘This is the captain of USS Lincoln, please divert your course 15 degree to the north to avoid collision,” he said. To which the voice on the radio replied: “Sir, recommend you divert your course 15 degrees south to avoid collision.”

The naval captain again requested that the other ship change course, but was once again rebuffed. The third time, he was more stern: “I demand that you change your course 15 degrees to the north. I am the captain the USS Lincoln, the second largest naval ship, and if you do not change your course I will be forced to take action to secure my ship and the safety of my crew.”

The Canadians radioed back: “This is a lighthouse. It’s your call.”

Whether the story is true or not is subject to some debate. Regardless, there are valuable lessons to be learned from it, according to Lisa Bodell, CEO of the business consulting firm FutureThink and the NGCOA’s General Session keynote at its recent Annual Conference in New Orleans.

“What’s great about that anecdote is that it illustrates how we have such a hard time changing our course even when what’s in front of us is so unclear. We have such a hard time admitting that maybe we are the one who needs to change,” said Bodell, a self-proclaimed ‘futurist’ who advises companies and groups on how to innovate and think differently about change.

“The issue with change is that people see it as something that’s all or nothing — it’s binary, it’s yes or it’s no, it’s good or it’s bad, it’s all or it’s nothing. And it’s not,” she said. “In fact, there’s a lot of gray area with change and I think that’s an opportunity because it means you don’t have to take a big risk in order to have a lot of success.”

During her presentation, Bodell introduced attendees to a tool that futurists call “40 ways to rethink your business.” She highlighted eight of the 40 tips and demonstrated how they could be used by golf professionals to change how they think about their business and create new opportunities.

Taking Out

• Questions to ask yourself: Can we extrapolate the core functions of a product or service — the essential elements that customers must have or value the most? Can we pull out and begin offering part of a product or service that has value on its own?

• Success story: After Westin Hotels introduced its ‘Heavenly Bed’ in its hotels nearly 10 years ago, it began selling the beds and other ‘Heavenly’ products to consumers. Today it’s a $100 million business for the hotel chain.


• Questions to ask yourself: What activities might keep your customers from spending time at your course? Where are your customers (what are they doing?) when they’re not spending time at the course? Can you offer additional services to help customers get more done during their time with you?

• Success story: Reebok Sports Club (Sports Club LA) offers laundry and dry cleaning services, daycare, restaurant, day-spa, salon, and shopping all under one roof.


• Questions to ask yourself: For tasks that seem too big to accomplish, can we partner with other resources to help lighten the load? Can we link up with other successful companies or ventures in a mutually beneficial way? Can we attach our products or services to popular causes or trends?

• Success story: Clorox’s Glad Press ‘n Seal wraps were made possible using adhesive technology from one of its competitors, Proctor &Gamble. The same adhesive that P&G uses in its Crest Whitestrips is used in Glad Press ‘n Seal wraps.


• Questions to ask yourself: How can you empower your employees to ensure your customers have the best experience possible? What rules, procedures, and barriers can you eliminate to ensure your staff is able to fulfill your customers’ requests without delay?

• Success story: At TD Bank (formerly Commerce Bank), all employees operate on the rule that “it takes 1 to say yes and 2 to say no.” This means employees have the power to fulfill customer requests quickly and efficiently, but must turn to managers in order to turn down a request.

Alternative/Off-season Uses

• Questions to ask yourself: Can your course be used in a different way during inclement weather or the off-season? How can your indoor facilities continue to attract customers when your outdoor courses are not usable?

• Success story: Lowes Cinemas runs a Reel Moms program to allow new mothers to bring their babies to the movies free of charge during the day when regular attendance is low.

Speed Up

• Questions to ask yourself: Can a process or wait time be shortened? Can you reduce the length/usage time of your products and services?

• Success story: Six Flags amusement parks sell FastLane service and electronic beepers that hold your place in line while you explore other parts of the park.


• Questions to ask yourself: What can be copied from one industry to yours? Is there a market for a cheaper version of something that already exists?

• Success story: Southwest Airlines drew inspiration from Formula One pit crews to speed the turnaround times for their planes.

Alternative Communications

• Questions to ask yourself: Can we use a variety of media effectively in our marketing and communications efforts? Are there new technologies and communication channels we can leverage to better engage our customers?

• Success story: Bank of America created the first electronic banking iPhone application to allow customers to manage their finances and find branch locations on the go in a safe, secure way.

For more information on “40 ways to rethink your business” and other innovative tools of change, visit www.getfuturethink.com.

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