Turning Deja Vu Into An Opportunity For Change

Deja Vu

Easy to say. Difficult to do.

The other night I watched Tony Scott’s Sci Fi thriller, Deja Vu, starring Denzel Washington. It got me thinking because in it, they have a fictional wormhole viewer that allows them to see backwards in time exactly 4 1/2 days.

The premise is that they’re using this viewer to solve a crime after it’s already happened by watching the events leading up to it as they unfold. The kicker, is that this gives them the opportunity to change what happened. Maybe.

Every Business Has Its Deja Vu Moments

We’ve all seen them. They’re the “Uh oh, this is gonna go bad” moments. We’re presented with a situation, and somehow, we know we’ve seen this before. We recognize them for a number of reasons:

  • Experience. Been there, done that. It blew up last time. It’s going to blow up this time.
  • Objectivity. If you’re not the one responsible for executing “the right way”, then it’s easy to say, hey this is the right way. For the person that has to execute it the right way; if they can’t, it’s easier to just do it the wrong way. It’s easier to do what you know. No matter how wrong it is.

So it comes down to having the right people. Because either, you’re not sure how to do it right, or you have someone who knows, but doesn’t know how to make it happen. Even more importantly, it comes down to recognizing a deja vu moment so we can change an otherwise inevitable outcome.

Making The Opportunity To Do It Right

I firmly believe that, as a leader, you don’t always have to have the best idea. But you do have to recognize the best idea. The only way to seize the opportunity when something doesn’t feel right, is to stop and recognize the deja vu moment when it occurs.

Don’t slough it off. Don’t let it pass by unrecognized. And know that you’re going to need help.

By their very nature, these moments slip by us because we kind of feel that something is wrong. We’re just not sure what. Or why. Or how to define it. And mostly, we don’t know how to fix it.

You might need help from the resident guru in your team. You might need to hire some big guns from outside your company that have the experience and can show you exactly how to do it right. It’s a hard sell to say “Hey, there’s something wrong. But I don’t know what it is. Or how to fix it”. Investigate it anyway. Talk to people. Get input.

Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to figure out what went wrong after it happens. Deja vu offers us a huge opportunity because it’s 20/20 foresight.

Well, maybe not quite 20/20.


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  1. “It’s a hard sell to say “Hey, there’s something wrong. But I don’t know what it is. Or how to fix it”. Investigate it anyway. Talk to people. Get input.”

    So true. I’ve made the mistake before. Something didn’t feel right, but it didn’t jump out at me. So I just did nothing. It didn’t take long to find out why something didn’t feel right……….

    Now I always “investigate” when something seems a little off.

  2. Hey Anthony.

    That’s good. It’s one of those things they don’t teach in school. It just comes with experience. It’s too easy to not want to deal with a problem that’s not right in front of you when there are plenty of others that are.

    The really hard part is convincing everyone else that you’re not crazy! haha

  3. The ability to recognize the best ideas (and admit our are not always the best ones) is definitely needed if you are leading a team or are in charge, often a member of this “team” will have way better ideas than people in charge.

    “It’s easier to do what you know. No matter how wrong it is.”
    really liked that one 🙂

    Excellent post, as always!

  4. Jon, thanks,

    and yeah, that’s the whole point of having a team in the first place! Everybody’s got a different superpower.

    “It’s easier to do what you know. No matter how wrong it is.”

    Sounds like a bad t-shirt doesn’t it! Haha.

  5. haha, yeah it does, you know what? I’d love to have a t-shirt that says that, i’ll have one printed! 🙂


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