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When it comes to business, there are many different places we look to for inspiration. But it turns out that no matter if it’s in business, art or science, a lot of great ideas come from personal frustrations. Would you look for inspiration inside this disturbing place?
Inspirational business stories
The reason Richard Branson decided to create an airline was his own frustration as an airline passenger. “Screw it, I can do it better than you”, he said. Well, we all know how that story ends.
When Colin Barceloux was in college, he was frustrated about the high prices of textbooks. He decided to found Bookrenter.com – a business that offers textbook rentals at about 60% discount. Now it has 1,5 million users and 200 employees.
After becoming frustrated with the limitations of microscope technologies, Eric Betzing (physicist) came up with his own microscope (Palm), for which he won the Nobel prize. What's interesting, he built the microscope on a friend’s living room floor.
I like to think of frustration as unrealized potential. After all, if it wasn’t for frustration, those great ideas and businesses wouldn’t emerge.
Here’s how Richard Branson explains how making use of frustration can lead to the great ideas:
My best sources of inspiration come from the everyday frustrations I encounter at work and in my personal life. Simply taking note of them can lead to great ideas, because if you follow up and find that you can offer consumers a better solution than the ones currently on the market, you may soon be running a successful business. I always keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas for improving our businesses; the same applies for starting them.
The examples above are pretty huge. But it doesn’t mean that you have to come up with something big. Branson’s, Barceloux’s and Betzing’s attitude can be an inspiration for running your everyday business, working in customer service or just perfecting your craft.
Overcome frustration at work
According to EMyth, the global leader in transformational business coaching, there are three ways people usually perceive business frustrations:
- Self-Directed – „I am the cause of my own frustration”
- Outer-Directed – „You are the cause of my frustration”
- System-Directed – „The lack of an effective system is the cause”
One of EMyth’s clients was Michelle. Michelle is an example of turning business frustration into system improvement. She had trouble finding the time for running the company, because of constant interruptions from clients. She had so many project status requests she couldn’t focus on her strategic work. Michelle felt frustrated that customers weren’t relying on her support staff. At the same time, she didn’t want to jeopardize the level of customer service she assumed they expected.
At the beginning Michelle had an Outer-Directed perspective. She blamed her customers for her own frustration. Quite often we believe that someone or something else is the problem (“never my fault”). It’s called the blame game. Although playing it can give us some kind of relief, we always lose at the end.
In order to find a solution we must ask ourselves some questions that can lead us to the bottom of an issue. For instance: what impact the frustration has on me, my employees and the company? Does it cost me productivity, lost time and money? Are there any areas I can improve to change it?
According to EMyth, “it boiled down to the fact that Michelle's clients went to her for answers because they were never told to do otherwise and her support staff did not have the systems in place to regularly contact clients.”
With a System-Directed frustration identified, Michelle could focus on the true underlying condition causing the frustration. And that led to the solution: Michelle and her support staff had to create an appropriate communication system for customers.
Now, there’s a Customer Service Representative assigned to each project. Customers receive email introductions at the beginning of cooperation along with regular status updates. The company also improved contact information on the website so the clients know for sure who and for what to contact.
By creating the customer communication process, Michelle turned business frustration into opportunity for improvement. She also saved two hours of her time each day and started to enjoy her strategic work again.
Find inspiration in everyday life situations
Your everyday life situations are a good place to learn how to make use of frustration. As soon as you learn how to deal with small day-to-day frustrations you can start doing it in your business.
My partner is a great example for me in that matter. He always finds inspiration in everyday frustrating situations.
Stuck in traffic for the umpteenth time? You won’t hear him complaining about it. He accepts the situation, draws conclusions and next time thinks of choosing a different way. Getting mad at traffic every day won’t make it magically disappear, right? The restaurant run out of his favourite food he waited to eat all day long? It’s not something worth getting upset about. And it definitely won’t ruin the evening. It’s a great opportunity to finally try something new.
Lost his camera on vacation? No need to spend 3 days whining about it. He’s gonna make damn sure, to make this trip unforgettable.
I could go on and on but I think I made my point already. He finds inspiration no matter the situation. So can you.
Turn frustration into positive direction
Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success. - Bo Bennett
If you turn frustration into the positive direction you can make use of it to create something valuable or simply just improve your work and life.
It’s up to you how you react to frustration. You can get mad or you can get madly inspired.
Photo courtesy of Erik Johansson