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The Secret to Success

Optimize Blog - November 9, 2015 - 0 comments

We think that the principal problem with some business books is the fact that they generally purport that by following a number of key steps the reader will deliver success. There are literally tens of thousands of business books that promise a winning formula. We even often hear senior leaders quoting books or even buying the latest ‘blueprint for success’ book for the executive team……
So you may have guessed already that we do not subscribe to this seeming short cut to success and we believe that the simple fact is that no formula can guarantee a company’s success. We know this is disappointing for those leaders looking for a plug and play solution – there has to be an app for that surely?
Consider this formula route for a moment. If it was as simple as reading a book and applying a formula there would be no need for strategic thinking and all companies would be doing the same thing and being equally successful. Some of the most popular books have claimed to have answers, the way to go from good to great or how to come up with the perfect strategy to render the competition obsolete.
What each and every one of these success formula books fails to recognize is that corporate success is the result of decisions made under conditions of volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity and shaped in large part by factors outside of our control.
We maintain then that business leaders would do better to improve their powers of critical thinking than chasing the hyperbole and false promises of management blockbusters. The reality is that the capacity for critical thinking is a key asset for the business strategist allowing the executive to cut through the noise and distractions to get a more realistic, fundamental understanding of the business environment.
So instead of reaching for the next ‘formula for success’ book develop some critical thinking skills and consider the following three elements:
First recognize the reality of the fundamental uncertainty in the business environment. Specific actions don’t necessarily lead to specific outcomes. Strategic choice is an exercise in decision making under uncertain conditions. Technology, customers and competitors behave in uncertain ways.
Second, develop the ability to improve the odds of success through careful analysis and consideration of external factors such as industry forces, regulation, customer behaviors and competition. Also consider internal factors such as risk appetite, capabilities and capacity. Once you start dealing in probabilities rather than certainties the decision making becomes all about odds, chances and trade-offs. This requires agility and ongoing analysis and monitoring of the factors at play or that might come into play.
Third, recognize that the relationship between actions and outcomes is an imperfect science. It is therefore essential to examine the decision process itself and not just the outcome – was data overlooked, the wrong assumptions made or incorrect calculations present in the data? Good decisions don’t always lead to success and bad decisions don’t always lead to disaster.
What makes strategic decision making so difficult and therefore so valuable to an organization is precisely the fact that there are no guaranteed keys to success.
The ability to make complex judgements that are crucial for a company’s success are an executive’s most important contribution…..

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