Fly above the RADAR

Posted on April 29, 2009



RADAR, the acronym for ‘radio detection and ranging’, was a technology developed by the military to detect enemy aircraft. Many scientists had a hand in its development, but the British were the ones to first understand and use its potential. Interestingly, they found it by accident. In the late 30’s, the Germans were rumored to be building a ‘death ray’. The Brits trying to build a ray of their own discovered the RADAR. Their fears drove them to failure but their failures led them to a new innovation.

Recently, I spoke with someone I am close with about the turbulent economy. I will call this person ‘Bob’. Bob was under a lot of anxiety because for the first time ever about losing his job (Executive Director in a big company). His solution was typical of his generation (in his 60s); work hard, be loyal, don’t rock the boat, and do ‘business as usual’. In other words, ‘fly under the RADAR’.

It’s ironic that an invention birthed by innovation is now a term about being conservative and mediocre. The instincts are to shrink back and try to go unnoticed. Intuitively, Bob wants to send fewer e-mails, make less phone calls, have fewer meetings, and avoid conversations. Flying under the RADAR means you become invisible and being invisible means you get forgotten by your company. Bob might as well have a death ray pointed at his head.

This is the time for Bob to fly ‘above the RADAR’ and be seen by everyone. Bob needs to stop focusing on working hard and start innovating how his company does business. ‘Business as usual’ is what got us into this mess in the first place. Doing the same things but just doing more of it is not the solution.  Bob needs to re-invent himself and his value to the company. His bosses need to see that he is able to be a part of the solution not part of the problem. I suggested Bob be more visible by sending more e-mails, calling more people, and initiating more new ideas. Bob needs to be a champion. Even if his company ends up letting him go, there is not a shortage of companies out there that need champions even in this struggling economy.

An irrational fear of a fictitious death ray is what drove the Brits to discover the RADAR. The same irrational fear is driving conservative thinking by paranoid employees at troubled companies. The only death ray out there is the one that you create for yourself. Now is the time to be bold and courageous. Be on everyone’s RADAR or get forgotten. If you are a champion, I promise you that you that even if you get let go, you will be on someone else’s RADAR very soon.