Exploration and exploitation

Every company, big or small, established or starting up, faces the innovator’s dilemma – on whether they ought to focus on existing customers who bring in revenues today, or on promising innovation that may yield nothing today, but will drive their revenues tomorrow. This is a well established fact.

What is not so evident is that as people, we all face this in our professions as well.

As soon as we enter our career, sprinting to do our absolute best becomes the default mode of operation. This would involve addressing everything at work with utmost urgency. To put our hand up and pile more onto our plates whenever it has some room. To keep busy with the urgent becomes an end in itself, and this can turn into an entrenched habit.

But this approach has some hidden risks.

Firstly, what is keeping you busy today, may not be what the market needs tomorrow. And we live in a world where this is true for more professions than ever before.

Secondly, the urgent demands of the present moment may not be in line with your inherent tendencies or your values. In the long run, the blind pursuit of the urgent may come at the cost of discontent, burnout or even depression.

It pays to ask yourself what proportion of your time, you spend sprinting: exploiting your current skills and vitality vs. what you invest in the exploration of capabilities that will help you in the long run.

Just as every company does, all of us need to reinvent ourselves every now and then.

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