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Four great clues for running a business that I’ve learned from Sherlock Holmes


We’ve all heard nuggets of business wisdom from real world geniuses like Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs. But, could we also learn a thing or two from the hit BBC series, Sherlock Holmes?

Indeed you can.

Anthill has put the magnifying glass on the best (and possibly sexiest) detective in the world.

1. Observe

This is probably the first thing you’d notice while watching Sherlock do his thing. The power of observation is one of, if not THE greatest assets of Sherlock Holmes.

You see, but don’t observe,” is one quote from Sherlock that I like to remember.

In the world of business, observation is crucial to understanding your customers, competitors, and even your own company. Observation could simply mean sitting in the cafe and watching customers intently for hours. Do they leave if the wifi goes wonky? Are there more hipsters than hippies at four o’clock in the afternoon?

You can gain a lot of insight by simply being observant.

The key to great business is to never stop observing. It’s easy to lose track of what’s happening on the ground as businesses grow. Great companies know that the simple act of keen observation can bring treasures of information.

That is why some large consumer goods companies have research departments whose work includes observing customers in their daily lives.

2. Obsess

Sherlock’s main goal in life is to eat, live and breathe detective work.

He’s so obsessed and passionate about his work that he’d even do it for free. That level of obsession sounds like an entrepreneur to me!

While in business you should only do things for free very strategically and sparingly, you would do well to be as obsessed and crazed about your business as Sherlock is about his.

When you put your whole mind and heart into improving your products and promoting them, your passion and authenticity can be felt not just by your customers, but by your co-workers and business partners too.

Obsession keeps you on the edge, pushing the envelope regardless of how established your company already is, and that keeps competition at bay.

As a leader, your spirit of perfection and enthusiasm can also induce the same sense of passion in your employees, who’d not only see your vision but also feel strongly for it. And, we know that behind every successful businessman, or woman, is an army of intelligent and passionate people.

3. Overlook the unimportant

This may sound as if I’m contradicting the first point, which is to observe and to take in the little details.

But to quote Sherlock in The Great Game episode (at 4 min 38 s, pardon my nerdiness): “This is my hard drive and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful, really useful. People fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish. That makes it harder to get at the stuff that matters, do you see?

There is a lot of information out there.

‘A lot’ being an understatement.

Hit enter on Google and you’d get a hundred facts and, a thousand opinions on a single query.

Add on to that the countless emails and reports, and you have a massive load of information to digest every single day.

While Sherlock has his head swamped with information, it’s really only stuff that truly matters to the case.

Likewise in business, sometimes less is more. It may seem obvious, but we are so wired in to information today that we sometimes forget to filter out the rubbish.

4. Outsource

No matter how hard you try, you can never be everywhere and, do everything.

And you shouldn’t.

Even the invincible Sherlock has his partner in crime (busting), Watson.

Watson makes up for what Sherlock lacks, in this case, a ton of EQ.

Can you imagine Sherlock blogging about his adventures and engaging with fans? I can’t. Clearly, Watson makes for a better publicist.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Instead of obsessing over closing our gaps, it could be more prudent to focus our energies on what we’re good at. Then, have a trusted partner handle the other aspects in which we’re hopeless at.

For example, if you’re starting an events company and you relish big-picture thinking but constantly fumble with the details, it might be best to work with a partner whose expertise is in detailed logistical planning.

Outsourcing, when done selectively with carefully chosen partners, can take your business to greater heights than if you were to go completely solo.

(Image source: BBC)