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Acting versus reacting

acting versus reactingWhat is the difference between acting and reacting? Well, if you follow the recruiting and HR news flow closely – as I do – these days you are inundated with articles about AI, funding rounds, the gig economy, marketplaces, and automation. OK, I’m sure I’m missing a few others, but you get the gist. These topics are both buzz words and real trends. What’s the difference? In my opinion, a buzz word is part marketing-speak and part shorthand – its purpose is to convey importance. After all, if you’ve had a funding round and your product says it’s AI, you are obviously going places, right?

Real trends are different – they represent actual activity in the ‘real world’, but they are neither important or unimportant, good or bad – they just ‘are’.

Which brings me to…acting versus reacting.

When you react, you are responding to a real or imagined event outside of your business. For example, you notice that your closest competitor has just added a gig job section to their site. You react: ‘Geez! I need to do something right away!’. Then you add a gig job section to your site. In other words, an outside event creates your reaction. Before you found out about your competitor’s action, you weren’t thinking of adding gig jobs to your site – in fact, you thought that doing so might be a bad idea. What changed your mind? A random outside event. Without thinking much, and certainly without any analysis, you reacted and launched into something new.

Now, compare that to acting. When you act, you are making a deliberate decision to do something, based on analysis and data. You are listening to your candidates and your employers. You are looking at your internal resources. You are estimating immediate and long-term gain. You analyze, discuss, evaluate – and then you act. Acting, unlike reacting, is not an instinctive and poorly thought-out response to an outside event. Instead, it is a deliberate business decision to do something. 

Every one of us does both – reacting and acting. Both have their place. If an oncoming car swerves into my lane, I don’t want to do a deep analysis of how or why this happened! I want to react quickly to avoid the car. However – if every single time I drive on this particular road I am confront with insane and reckless drivers – well, I want to step back and think hard about whether I should consider an alternative route!

A little bit of analysis and thought can go a long way.

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