There's Always Room For Improvement

I’ve belonged to West Austin II Toastmasters for two and a half years. We meet in the back room of an IHOP restaurant each Thursday at 6:45 AM. I estimate that I’ve seen more than 500 speeches, evaluations, and impromptu talks during that time.

The club averages about 22 people per meeting. The tables are set up in a horseshoe arrangement with the members sitting on the outside. There’s a lectern about three feet from the open end of the shoe and a space about three feet wide for the speakers to move about in the horseshoe.

Every speaker I’ve ever seen in that room either stayed behind the lectern or moved about within a radius of six feet of it.

Until Thursday.

Tony, a guest from a Houston area Toastmaster club attended the meeting. During the impromptu portion of the agenda, he was invited to speak extemporaneously for about two minutes.

Tony walked up to the lectern and shook the Topic master’s hand. He then began to speak, but as he did so, he started to circle the room on the outside of the horseshoe. He timed his speed so that he finished both his circuit of the room and his talk at the same time.

No speaker had ever done that. I personally had never considered it. My paradigm, like every other member’s, was to stay in that radius of six feet near the lectern.

Why? Because that’s the way it had always been done.

As Tony began his circuit, I saw the room in a new light. I wanted to slap my forehead and exclaim, “Why didn’t I think of that!”

I’ll remember what Tony did and someday soon, I’ll use it when I think it will be effective. But more importantly, the lesson I learned on Thursday was that you should never be afraid to reexamine a paradigm. Furthermore, sometimes the best way to do that is to seek input from “outside,” as Tony demonstrated.

That is especially true in today’s business environment. Just as thousands of species have died out because they couldn’t adapt to a changing environment, businesses and non profits must adapt to a new normal brought on by the recession.

Isn’t it time to reexamine how you do things so that you can adapt?

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