If you’ve ever traveled to London, the iconic phrase “Mind the gap,” has been forever burned into your memory. The automated warning is heard thousands of times each day at every stop of the subway system. The London Underground, affectionately known as “the Tub,e, is the oldest rapid transit system in the world. In 1968, over 100 years after the system opened, a recorded voice was installed to warn travelers to watch out for the space between the platform and train, instructing people to “mind the gap” each time a train stops, system wide. This cautionary phrase has become synonymous with London living and appears on t-shirts, as the punch line to jokes, in video games, and throughout modern culture.
The phrase can also be one of the most powerful weapons in your professional arsenal. This is the rallying cry for you to explore what’s missing, what’s not there, and what could be. Recited with the same rhythmic consistency of the London Underground, it is a phrase that can open new doors of opportunity.
Minding the gap has been the source of hundreds of hit products and services, as unfulfilled consumer desires were the geneses behind some of the most famous brands in the world. When you speak to customers, find out what’s missing in their lives. The areas of friction, discontent, and deficiency provide you with a heat map for innovation. Rather than studying competitors’ offerings to find a slight, incremental improvement, focus on minding the gap of customer needs. It is a pathway to entirely new – and highly differenced – solutions.
Minding the gap works inside your organization as well. Attacking internal soft spots helps you fortify your company against emerging competitive threats. The earlier you mind those gaps, the less painful the remedy and more productive the result.
Relationships are another area in which minding the gap can help. Both personal and professional relationships can fall into predictable patterns, with blind spots that can grow geometrically and do serious damage. Taking a pause to mind the gap and explore any missing areas can help avoid plenty of pain, from underperformance to dysfunction.
In business today, we tend to focus on attacking live problems when they emerge. We also focus on what already exists, only to make small tweaks. Instead, follow the lead of our friends across the pond and mind the gap. Look for hidden areas of unfulfilled promises, customer needs, and missing information. While the gaps aren’t screaming for attention, they can be a wellspring of opportunity and, if you get to them first, they can help you leapfrog the competition.
Let this mantra lead you to fresh ideas, opportunity, and inspiration. Mind the gap. Queen’s orders.