That’s why this whole notion of heresy is important, because it’s a leap into the dark. We don’t know what the result of heretical actions will be. There are ways to make strategic choices under conditions of uncertainty, by recognizing customers, economics, and rivals that have the chance to improve our probability of success. And that’s what we ought to be teaching.
KANNAN: I’d like to add that I read Phil’s book twice, and I agree that people tend to keep turning to different theories, rather than looking at the data. Today we can often make informed predictions based on data. For example, there are predictive models that show who will make online purchases with about 85 to 95 percent accuracy. But when we go to a new company and try to look at their data, they’ll say, “No, no, our big priority this year is to optimize Google.” Or something like that. The point is that people get attracted and fascinated by these one or two solutions that sound sexy. But they don’t want to take the time to actually collect the data, manage the data, build models, and use them.
The Next “New Truth”
S+B: What one idea most intrigues you as a harbinger of the next wave of management thinking and practice?
KLEINER: I think there’s a link between successful organizational change and obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD] — I think that true intervention requires the same kind of meticulous attention to day-to-day events that people with OCD have, if they can keep it under control.
E. SEASHORE: I think that it would make an enormous difference if our culture could change from a blame culture to an accountable one.
C. SEASHORE: When we look worldwide, a few people are getting rewarded for diversity, but more people are getting punished for the implementation of that idea. So if you want a heretical idea, promote diversity.
ROSENZWEIG: I thought The Red Queen among Organizations: How Competitiveness Evolves, by William Barnett, was the best strategy book of the year. It argues that you’ve got to run as fast as you can even to stand in the same place, which, of course, is the nature of relative performance in a competitive marketplace. Perhaps we can replace some of these simplistic notions about predictable accomplishments with a more relative notion of success.
KANNAN: For me, it’s about finding ways to make better predictions. Web 2.0 technologies have allowed us to marry the data inside companies to what’s available outside. The traditional model of forming a hypothesis and testing it is pretty much dead in our world, because things change so fast. Instead, our focus is on using data to improve predictability.
WHEELER: I think the most interesting changes will come when people start being strategic about building the capabilities they need for long-term success and avoiding the boom–bust cycles that most companies go through.
Bridget Finn is the Web editor of strategy+business.