Road Runner streaks away into the sunset, leaving behind a vanquished coyote with a look of exasperation and exhaustion. Road Runner: 1. Wile E. Coyote: 0. Beep, beep!
The epitome of confidence, power at warp speed, Road Runner doesn’t just escape. That implies the threat of capture and Road Runner never seems seriously concerned. He emerges victorious, again. The cartoon metaphor contains powerful lessons relevant for entrepreneurs seeking marketplace victories.
This is an era when time, place, secrecy, size and order are no longer relevant, when customers expect personalized outcomes delivered by passionate, agile and responsive employees. This is a time when roadrunners rule and coyotes crash.
Coyotes are earnest; roadrunners are passionate. Coyotes are resilient; roadrunners are resourceful. Coyotes look over their shoulders; roadrunners look ahead. Coyotes are procedural; roadrunners are experimental. Coyotes rely on a sole source supplier; roadrunners rely on no one and everyone, depending on need. Coyotes operate from what they want; roadrunners from who they are. Coyotes are grim; roadrunners are jubilant. Is your team or organization a Wile E. Coyote or a Road Runner? Are you a coyote or a roadrunner?
Roadrunner entrepreneurs create cultures in which everyone is a full player. They include employees and customers in dramatic and novel ways. They eliminate pecking order since rank to them means something with an odor not something to be saluted. They help everyone think and act like an owner. Secrets are banned; myths are bashed and rumors are squashed.
Since enterprise is now virtual, roadrunner entrepreneurs pursue value-added alliances and nurture diverse partnerships that can expand their resources and increase their response time. They borrow brains rather than own them. They strip away bulgy, bureaucratic staffs and get rid of all weight that keeps their unit or organization slow, bolted down and utterly vanilla in responses. They eliminate anything and everything that contributes to drag.
Because they know that mastery is the magic, roadrunner entrepreneurs act as mentors not meddlers. They partner instead of parent. They turn every mistake into a lesson. every miscue into an instruction for improvement. They encourage interesting errors and delightful mistakes.
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Because they think big, beyond conventional wisdom, they inspire their associates to change the rules of their industry. They invite out-of-the-ordinary people from diverse disciplines to attend their meetings and coach their team. They treasure demanding and complaining customers as potential sources for wisdom. They create electronic knowledge networks, promote peer coaching and encourage community service.
Roadrunner entrepreneurs know that enthusiastic employees come from passionate, high-integrity, joy-filled cultures and model the attributes that create such a setting. They encourage bone-honest, candid dialogue. They get rid of hyper-legalistic, self-protective, arm’s length pseudo partnerships. Since breakthrough is the only road to prosperity, they go for the lunatic fringe, the quirky approach and the audacious solution.
They assume they are in the fashion or entertainment business where everything is out-of-date and obsolete practically overnight. They know they are on the right road, if their competitors label them as crazy, their customers see them as out of the box and their associates defend them as revolutionary. Again, are you a coyote or a roadrunner? Beep, beep!
Portions of this piece were adapted from Beep! Beep! Competing in the Age of the Road Runner by Chip R. Bell and Oren Harari (Warner Books).