I thought that I’d share with you one of the great things that I learned while working for GE (over a decade ago). In a training session, Jack Welch told us: “Deal with the world as it is, not how you’d like it to be.”

His words didn’t hit me as being particularly profound at the time, but I have really come to appreciate their wisdom. All too often, I hear executives discuss their strategies within the context of how they “expect” the world to operate. They often believe that customers think about their company and its products more often than they actually do, that people and processes can be changed more rapidly than they can, and that their strategies translate directly into implementation plans — which all too often they don’t.

I’ve seen this problem show up a lot when situations are bad. Rather than facing tough problems, some executives find it easier to act like the issues don’t exist. Bad idea! You can’t make problems go away by pretending that they aren’t there. All that happens is that mistaken underlying assumptions end up driving bad decisions.

To apply this wisdom to customer experience, I recommend that you periodically (that’s my nice way of saying “often”) step back and ask yourself (as well as your staff): “Do we have a clear picture of what customers really want?” But don’t just move ahead if the answer is “no.” In the long run, you’ll want to put in place processes that help you answer “yes” to that question more often (see my post on Experience-Based Differentiation).

I hope that you get as much out of Jack’s words as I have.

This blog post was originally published by Temkin Group prior to its acquisition by Qualtrics in October 2018.