Familiarity: The Unseen Enemy Of Your Business

Posted: July 20, 2011 in Business Tips

within the fog, something wicked waits
Photo by ricoeurian

In a book I recently read called, “Unthinking: The surprising forces behind what we buy” the internationally acclaimed marketer Harry Beckwith shares a story about what I’d call “negative familiarity” that business owners need to take to heart.

He says…

“One evening on Friday, January 26, 1968, Jeff Greendorfer and his college roommate arrived at his roommate’s home on a cliff on the northern Oregon coast. It was Jeff’s first visit to Oregon’s coast, but he knew the Pacific Ocean well, having grown up minutes from it in San Francisco. To give Jeff the full benefit of his visit, the hosts assigned him the green room, from which he was able to look out its floor-to-ceiling window and see thirty miles out to sea.

“That night was Jeff’s last in the room.

“The next morning at breakfast, Jeff apologized to the three hosts. He felt grateful for being given the room with the best view in the house but couldn’t sleep there again. “The waves sound so loud, they kind of scare me.

“Jeff’s announcement startled his hosts. They’d lived alongside the ocean for decades, so the ocean sounded different to them: it did not sound at all.

“Jeff’s hosts had experience what psychologists call “perceptual adaptation”: they’d adapted to what they heard to the point they no longer heard it….

“Jeff’s hosts no longer noticed the crash of the waves on the rocks below.”

Then Beckwith gets to the part that applies to what we’re talking about today…

“Familiarity breeds numbness. This is why we often struggle in marriage. Each partner becomes habituated; we notice less, which causes us to appreciate less. This also explains why receiving a gift at an unexpected time makes us smile for several days, but a birthday gift – being expected – usually touches us less.

“We love what is familiar, and then we don’t. Familiarity eventually breeds fatigue, but until that occurs, we crave what is familiar and recoil at what is not…”

What does this have to do with business owners?
How can you apply this to your business?

Here’s how…

Negative familiarity doesn’t just apply to marriages. It applies in all areas of life. We become blind and numb to the things that are always around us.

This has negative and positive applications for your business:

  • What problems have you gone blind to in your business?
  • What weaknesses have you gone blind to?
  • What people have you stopped appreciating?
  • What voices have you stopped hearing?
  • What gifts/talents have you stopped recognizing that you and your staff have?
  • What opportunities are you blind to that have been put before you and your team?
  • What needs/opportunities are in your community (or niche) that you can’t see?
  • What have you stopped being thankful for?

We all need to take time to see and feel anew all of the good, the bad, the opportunities and the needs that are in front of us so we can do something about them!

Until that happens, change will remain a wish and not a reality.

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