We are writing up a series of reviews on recent books that embody or challenge the core ideas of strategic thinking. A few of these will be dribbled onto the site in February, so watch this space for more regular action in the near future.
Among the issues we will be tackling first are the implications of the 10,000 hour rule. Some of you may have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers or Jeff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated. These authors, like those of Freakanomics and its recent sequelSuperfreakonomics have helped us remember that as Darwin said “Men differ less from one another in ability than in accomplishment.”
Sadly, as many must bitterly suspect, the downside of this stealth observation is that luck or privilege have much to do with the under performance of so many in the general population. Happenstance is frequently tragic in this respect. I do not mean train crashes or other horrible statistical anomolies, but the grinding attrition of opportunity denied by environmental accident. Too few of us are granted the discretionary time to put in the essential 10,000 hours of practice. No exceptions, you must put in the hours before you can be ushered into the vestibule of excellence.
The upside is much more important strategically as well as encouraging. On this first day of what we devoutly hope will be a shining new year, let’s remember that potential for achievement is truly enormous for all of us. Knowing this allows us to change the unfairness of circumstance often enough. Of course we must be selective in what we seek to change. Few 40 year olds will break records in the more active sports and some talents are of quite marginal value in today’s world.
Strategic Thinking nevertheless provides the turning point for all kinds of people. Since we must pick the right battles we must choose the right boot camps. Peter Drucker wrote about managing oneself towards the end of his own incredible career. He reminded us in a famous Harvard Business Review article that appeared five years ago this month that we need to discover our strengths early by analyzing the feedback of personal performance. Working on weaknesses is largely time wasted with disappointing results. We must discover and practice building on our strengths. This applies to how we work as well as at what.
So what should our resolutions be at the birth of the year or whenever we are blessed with some epiphany of self understanding? They should embody firm determinations to accept and build on our chosen gifts while basically ignoring our incidental weaknesses. Now, when we live in the world wide community of the web, this has never been more true. Strategic Thinking, in other words, always begins at home, but the extent of its influence is potentially infinite.
Happy New Year!