Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pride goes before the fall


The Harvard Business Journal tends to go on (and on) about the latest flavor of business theory, but here they are discussing something that happens to be a bit more universal.  It is not just that we get over confident, but we also loose our focus.

The sequence they note goes something like this:  Clarity of purpose leads to success; at which point your success leads to more available options, the exploration of these options leads to a loss of clarity; which then leads to failure.
The disciplined pursuit of less
Greg McKeown, Harvard Business Review, 8 August 2012 (Hat tip: Big Picture)
Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.
We can see this in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, but later collapsed. In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into "the undisciplined pursuit of more." It is true for companies and it is true for careers.
So it is another case of "less is more." All this could be loosely summed up to:  "stick to your knitting".

Which could be broadly expanded to a societal message about worry about what really matters.  I saw the Mayor of the small town of Wake Forest the other day and teased her that now that they were discussing the option of allowing in-town bow hunting, they could pass pass their super secret conspiracy initiates with impunity while everyone was distracted.


dennis said...

Yep getting more and more regulation fits the bill. It might apply to the age old sport of adultery (poor tiger woods). Of course in my case it's pre onset senior ADD.

russell1200 said...

Dennis, I am not sure I completely follow you. I guess you can extend it to Tiger distracting himself, rather than working toward what made him successful. But in that case it was on activities that were very unlikely to bring on any long term gain. In the case they note here, the additional activities are thought to be positive. The self deception is a little more subtle.

John D. Wheeler said...

You mean like Michael Jordan doing baseball?

russell1200 said...

John: Yes, and you would probably have to include all the other superstar multisporters. Although Wilt Chamberlain, after he retired, did play some volleyball.