How to protect yourself from the “Any Given Monday” phenomenon

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I was speaking to a committee at a very large, respected association recently when I mentioned the concept of”Any Given Monday.” I didn’t have to say much before I saw a flicker of understanding – and perhaps a bit of fear – in eyes across the room. People knew what I was talking about, and it had them a bit worried.

So what is “Any Given Monday” and what can you do about it?

What it is

Here’s what I write about Any Given Monday in Leading the Learning Revolution:

Subject matter experts of all types and all levels are now able to jump into the learning market, creating what I describe as the “Any Given Monday” phenomenon. Just as in the world of sports a seemingly outclassed team can rise to the occasion and beat a favored rival on any given Sunday, individual subject matter experts willing to put in the time and effort are taking their shot at nearly any area of learning you can name. On any given Monday you may open your inbox or scan industry news to find that a new thought leader—and learning leader—has emerged. For organizations like trade and professional associations that have traditionally dominated continuing education in their niches, this can be a particularly disturbing phenomenon. The subject matter experts on which these groups have relied for conference and seminar content can, and already do, compete with them directly more easily than has ever been the case before.

So, while one major outcome of the access to learning that technology provides is a larger and more vibrant education sector outside the traditional sector, the other is a much more competitive environment overall for anyone in the learning business.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply in the education business. There are very few, if any markets these days in which someone with expertise, motivation, and enough time on their hands can’t set up a blog, leverage social networks, and start having a big impact by pumping high value educational content into the market.

If you don’t believe me, listen to Joe Pulizzi – author of the best-selling Get Content, Get Customers – make much the same point in a recent interview with Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner. The barriers to reaching customers and members in most markets are essentially gone. In markets where the main product is knowledge and information, change can happen practically over night – thus the Any Given Monday phenomenon.

3 Steps to Protect Yourself

So, what to do? Here are three steps that I consider absolutely essential. In fact, I’ll frame these as “habits,” because I think they are things that have to become part of how you approach your business day in and day out:

1. Listen Continuously
I’ve written about the “white magic” of listening here and have suggested the importance of basic market research many times. It’s also a topic I cover at length in Leading the Learning Revolution. You have to find the conversations that matter in your market, and you have to stay tuned in. This is one of the only reliable ways to stay on top of customer needs, to catch the front end of emerging trends, and to establish yourself as a trusted source who cannot easily be displaced by newcomers.

2. Embrace the Beta Mentality
One of the afflictions of the successful is that they become obsessed with perfection. The next version of a product or the next big thing can’t be released until they have it exactly right. Avoid this at all costs. Embrace the concept of the “minimum viable product” and get your offerings out into the market when they are good enough to meet core customer needs – then learn and revise rapidly. I refer to this as maintaining a beta mentality.

As part of this mindset, it is essential to recognize the importance of testing your market even before you put any sort of offering out. If you are listening – as advocated above – you will increasingly find yourself in a position to float ideas in front of the right group of people. I also recommend listening in to Howie Jacobson and Kristie McDonald, co-authors of Google Adwords for Dummies, for their insights on using AdWords and other tools to test your markets.

3. Establish and Maintain the Content Habit
I think it is beyond dispute now that you have to supply your market with a steady stream on high-value content – most often content that is educational in some way – in a variety of formats. At least, you have to do this if you want to remain top of mind and relevant – the very traits that will protect you against Any Given Monday.

Many individuals and entrepreneurs find the prospect and process of continuous content creation to be quite daunting, so let me suggest a fantastic resource – a recent Webinar on Total Online Presence by Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch. You’ll have to dedicate a little time to this – to listen, take notes, plot out your plan – but it is really a road map for establishing and managing the content habit. Do it now while we are still early in the year.

As with so many things in life and business, these habits are simple, but not easy. You won’t master them over night, but there is no better way to get started than to just get started. After all, you don’t want any surprises when you open your inbox this Monday.

Jeff

P.S. – What do you think? Is “Any Given Monday” a concern (or opportunity!) for you or your organization?

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Comments

  1. Jeff, I think organizations already devote a great deal of time “protecting” themselves from perceived threats. If they are to succeed going forward, they need to invest more resources in preparing their people for new ways of doing business. In this context, I would add another habit to your list: suspending disbelief. The way that organizations, especially associations, share content is greatly influenced by deep-seated internal assumptions about what is “right” and what is “wrong.” This filtering of knowledge goes far beyond curation. It is often a reflection of economic, political and social biases that are frequently in conflict with the observable results of an accelerating pace of societal transformation. So while it is essential to listen to the market, if the traditional views held by leaders prevent organizations from embracing the free flow of novel ideas and insights, the opportunity to help stakeholders achieve their important stakeholder outcomes will be lost.

    • Jeff Cobb says:

      Jeff – I’d argue they spend a good amount of time *worrying* about it. I don’t encounter a lot that methodically engage in *doing* a lot about it – at least not along the lines I describe here. Your experience may be different. I agree completely, though, with the need to suspend disbelief – and, by extension, be willing to take some risks. As your comment suggests, one significant danger of listening is that it simply turns into following, which, of course, isn’t the point. Thanks for commenting – I always value your thinking! – Jeff

      • Jeff, we agree that legacy organizations consume significant time worrying about new forms of competition. My hope is to discourage the protection reflex and encourage openness, imagination and learning. To put it another way, I don’t see how legacy organizations will be able to thrive going forward witbout giving themselves over to the forces of transformation that are reshaping the rest of our society. It’s not just about risk-taking. It’s about embracing risk as an essential and welcome precondition for creating the kind of radical value the stakeholders of the future are already demanding. Insular thinking is a habit of protection in legacy organizations. Leaders need to take responsibility for shifting organizational mindsets away from the prejudices of the core, and toward the diversity and creativity of the edge.

        • Jeff Cobb says:

          Jeff – I think we are on the same wavelength, though the word “protect” may be causing some static. There’s nothing you are saying I would disagree with – indeed I wholeheartedly support it – though my hope would be that the type of activities I describe (from which I’ll drop the concept of “protection” for the moment) would actually promote what you describe. At least, if they are done thoughtfully – with “openness, imagination, and learning” as you put it – they would. – Jeff

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