Category Archives: renewal

Resilience and Strategy

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.

John W Gardner: Who versus What

Consider for a moment the difference between two values: excellence and renewal. We have an intuitive understanding of the “drive to perform” or “to achieve”. These are the indicators or metrics of “excellence” as a value. And no doubt, important. But does excellence promote a capacity for self-renewal? Back in 1964, John W. Gardner brought out the difference between the two in his book “Self-Renewal”  He makes the point that we are better at excellence than renewal and this is a problem.

I would argue that it is a strategic learning problem. Focusing on one thing in itself rather than a story that brings many things together into a vibrant identity. Strategy here is about “who we are”, not just “what we do”. Join the adventure!