At the limits of performance, the difference between winning and losing is not just about physical and mental strength, but about changing the rules and adopting a different strategy. – Alistair Schofield
In the 2006 Open golf tournament at the beautiful Royal Liverpool course at Hoylake, Tiger Woods, Ernie Ells and Chris DiMarco all played brilliantly but Tiger Woods won by adopting a radically different strategy to everyone else: not using a driver to tee off with on the longer holes.
Although this strategy caused consternation amongst many golf commentators the result was that he not only won by two strokes but also set a course record for the lowest total score during an Open championship, beating the previous record by eight strokes.
While most players are busy building on conventional wisdom to perfect their game, it takes real bravery to challenge the process and adopt a different strategy. But breakthrough results are nearly always a result of breakthrough thinking.
A really great example of breakthrough thinking is the story of Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile. For many years it was widely believed to be physically impossible for a human to run a mile (1609 meters) in under four minutes. In fact, until Bannister achieved it in 1954, many believed the four minute mile to be a physical barrier that no man could break, in much the same way as pilots had once regarded the sound barrier.
Bannister, a medical student, could not see any particular physical reason why such a barrier should exist. After all, a mile is simply an arbitrary measure of distance. Having convinced himself that a physical barrier did not exist, Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds on the 6th of May 1954. Interestingly, John Lander, another runner from that era, also ran a mile in under 4 minutes just 56 days later and, by the end of 1957, no less than 16 other athletes had achieved the same feat, proving that a physiological barrier had not existed, but a psychological barrier had!
The same is true with many businesses which all too frequently limit their thinking to what is reasonable, rather than what is possible.
In the 1950s Toyota’s ‘lean manufacturing took a giant step forward from the accepted GM-like production environment and gave power to the people, having workers cooperate in original schemes to raise quality and productivity in a powerful new process, which eventually led to the Toyota Production System and Lean Manufacturing.
The typical strategic business plan as a perfect example of “bounded thinking”. In most companies the starting point is usually the previous plan. It is therefore no surprise that the new plan invariably ends up looking like the previous plan plus a bit more . But it was not this sort of incrementalist thinking that led Nokia to abandon its roots as a lumbering and tire manufacturing company to become one of the world leaders in mobile phones, or that persuaded Apple to break into the music entertainment industry with the launch of the iPod and iTunes.
So! What does your strategic plan look like? Incremental or Breakthrough?
“Most leaders have no idea of the giant capacity for performance they can immediately command when they focus all their organization’s resources and attention on a few key breakthrough objectives.”
Tight Lines . . .