Today we had a consultant (who insists that he’s not a consultant), in our office helping us to review our business. He made a point several times that intrigued me, saying that Vineeta and I both look at our business with an “outside-in” perspective, and that we need to learn to take an “inside-out” perspective. Apparently, he himself used to make the mistake of looking at things outside-in, but is now wise enough not to.
I did ask for an explanation of exactly what this meant in the context of our own attitudes to our business, but didn’t really get one.
So instead I spent some time reading about this concept. Much to my surprise, I found that I really had nothing to worry about and that his comments, in my opinion, were somewhat misguided.
Outside-in means to look externally at what others want or expect of you, and use that as the basis for how you think, feel, and make decisions.
Inside-out means that you look within yourself and listen to your inner voice, not letting outside factors influence you.
Neither approach is inherently right. It’s all about context.
Generally speaking, the outside-in approach is more effective in developing successful long-term businesses because it basically means taking a customer-first approach which leads to better customer satisfaction, more positive word of mouth marketing, repeat business, and less complaints.
On the other hand, the inside-out approach makes much more sense in your personal life. It means focusing on what you really want in your life, valuing yourself for who you really are, and trusting your gut rather than living your life trying to impress others and seeking to attach value to yourself through external items such as possessions, qualifications, job titles, etc.
In a business context, the two concepts overlap because all businesses need to look inside at their own needs to ensure that their desire to give good service to customers does not harm the business itself. Also, when you have a values-driven business like we do at Wholegrain Digital, the inside-out approach defines the motivations for starting the business in the first place, the personal goals to be achieved within that business, as well as the values by which the company operates. But when it comes to designing and delivering products or services, an outside-in approach ensures that you are always aiming to put customers first and maximise customer satisfaction.
Both perspectives have value and the important thing is not to pick a side, but to ensure that we balance the two perspectives in a way that is appropriate to the particular circumstances.
We’ve always tried to take a primarily inside-out approach to our personal lives and combined it with a hybrid approach to business as a way of ensuring that a happy life and a successful business can exist in harmony with one another. Despite the intended constructive criticism, I feel confident that we’re already living life the right way out.