Acres of Diamonds: How Leaders are Overlooking Riches Under Their Noses

Civil War soldier Russell Conwell was asked to give a speech to the 10-year reunion of his unit. He gave the famous “Acres of Diamonds” speech, which he then turned into the well-known classic book by the same name.

Acres of Diamonds is a reference to the farm owned by Lamar, a young black farmer in central Africa. Lamar scratched out a meager living on his farm but dreamed of one day becoming very rich. Diamonds were being discovered throughout Africa, so he sold his farm, left his family, and traveled the continent in search of diamonds.

After months of searching, Lamar was penniless and exhausted. He threw himself into a river and drowned. Meanwhile, the farmer who bought his farm stumbled across a huge diamond in a creek on the farm. More diamonds were found, and the farm became one of the most productive diamond mines in the world.

The very obvious moral of the story is that the best riches are often right under our noses, but we fail to see them.

I thought of this story when I was considering how many leaders are overlooking their own acres of diamonds.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, 61% of most employees’ days are spent managing email, attending meetings, and gathering information. And yet, most leaders only focus on optimizing the 39% of every day when employees are making widgets, providing service to customers, or actively supervising other employees.

What if those leaders spent as much time optimizing the previously-overlooked 61% of every day? There are diamonds there and they are right on the surface!

Lean principles are great for manufacturing and other productive processes in most companies. What most leaders don’t realize is that those same Lean principles can be applied to the 61% of every day when employees are collaborating or managing information.

What’s more, Microsoft has given leaders the collaborative tools they need to quickly optimize this 61% of every day, if only they would leverage those tools.

Collaborative optimization takes much less time and money investment than installing Lean in manufacturing processes. Results can be noticed in days rather than months.

So how can you learn to leverage Microsoft’s collaborative tools (Yammer, SharePoint, Teams) as quickly as possible? Start asking questions. Those diamonds won’t mine themselves.

I can be reached at [email protected] if you want to begin asking questions today.

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