Contently Founder Shane Snow Encourages Club Industry Audience to Use Lateral Thinking for Growth

Snow cited several real world examples of applying lateral thinking from US presidents to corporate leaders and Club Industry Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Augie Nieto Photo by Bryan Beasley
<p>Snow cited several real world examples of applying lateral thinking, from U.S. presidents to corporate leaders and Club Industry Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Augie Nieto. (Photo by Bryan Beasley.)</p>

MacGyver may seem like an unlikely role model for inspiring growth in business pursuits or personal life.

But Shane Snow, the 2015 Club Industry Show keynote speaker, said the 1980s television character embodies the essence of lateral thinking, which he said is a key to explosive growth. Snow became obsessed with the idea of lateral thinking when he worked as a journalist covering high growth companies for Fast Company and Wired, then again when he co-founded his own company, Contently, and wrote his book, "Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators and Icons Accelerate Success."

"How do the fastest moving people in companies and history do it?" Snow asked the crowd. "The answer was that when you look at the history of breakthroughs – in history, the arts, sciences and business – every breakthrough we've ever had was because someone didn't play the same game but played a different game because they used lateral thinking."

Snow shared several real world examples of lateral thinking used by corporate leaders, including Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. He also shared lateral thinking puzzles, such as how to slice a cake into seven pieces by making only three cuts. Snow said the concept of lateral thinking - changing the perspective of how to approach a problem - is relevant because most businesses stop growing after two years.

"Everyone here in the fitness industry knows people reach plateaus in their workouts," Snow said. "In our lives, we tend to ease up with inertia at various points in our lives and businesses. An object at rest, stays at rest. This plateau happens to all of us."

Lateral thinking can involve looking to other industries for inspiration to re-ignite that momentum, Snow said. 

He cited an example from London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, which analyzed the pit stop process in Formula One racing to improve its patient transfer process during complicated surgical procedures involving children. By looking outside the hospital industry, the hospital improved its mortality rate "overnight," Snow said.

Snow said that taking small, calculated steps toward a larger goal is better than trying to attain a goal in one move or a single deal, noting a series of small wins are more motivating psychologically than one big win after a long period of time.

"You make it easier and less risky at each point," Snow said. "People around you who see you making progress in small steps are more likely to want to support your cause because you are moving."

Snow encouraged the keynote audience to look to other industries for inspiration if they are stuck in their professional or personal life.

"Businesses that survive the first few years are the ones that are willing to deviate from their business plan a couple of times in the first few years," Snow said. "In fact, staying on the course that you originally plotted has more likelihood of leading to failure than deviating from that. You can keep your mission and vision, but changing your business plan is very helpful from a business standpoint."

Snow noted that 2015 Club Industry Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Augie Nieto successfully applied knowledge from one industry to another industry. Prior to the keynote, Nieto was presented with the award for his accomplishments popularizing the Lifecycle and for his fundraising efforts to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since his diagnosis with the disease in 2005.

"When he was diagnosed with ALS, he applied the same entrepreneurship and salesmanship that made him successful in the fitness industry to an industry that is very, very hard – fundraising for scientific and medical research- which is often done by people who grow up in non-profits and come from that industry," Snow said. "It is a huge uphill battle. By applying this, you can see the success and momentum the ALS movement has gotten and the huge amounts of money they've raised."

Augie's Quest has raised $45 million in support of finding effective ALS treatments since it was founded in 2007.

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