The other day, I read Mark Zuckerberg saying that as CEO of Facebook, he has made a huge number of mistakes. Jeff Bezoes said something similar about the decisions he has made as CEO of Amazon. What’s going on here? These are two of the most successful companies around?
Their comments go to a basic point about strategic thinking. When you make a strategic decision, you don’t know if it will work out. This means that you will not get things right 100% of the time. No one does. It is what comes next that matters — what you do when the wheels come off.
A couple of quick comments on this. The first is that if you know that the wheels might come off, it is a good idea to be checking on those wheels. That means having an alarm that goes off when the data starts looking screwy. The second is be ready to take your losses and move on. Don’t get stuck – react!
This quote gives the flavor — from Peter Caddick-Adams about the fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in the later part of the Second World War.
What I (learned from my research is) that soldiering is not about planning. It’s all about how you react when something goes wrong, when the wheel comes off—how quickly you can turn things around, how resilient and deep your resolve is. That was demonstrated in spades by the U.S. Army at the Bulge. And that is deeply humbling and very instructive.
And remember! The things worth having are worth fighting for! Easy triumphs are kids stuff.