LET GO AT THE TOP

There can be no expertise in innovation…

…unless there is also expertise in demolishing the ensconced.

There is nothing wrong with perfection. To be maximally fit for a niche, to serve optimally, to seek the peak of perfection–these will always remain the goals of any firm, or individual. So why let go of perfection at the top?

The problem with the top is not too much perfection, but too little perspective. Great success in one product or service tends to block a longer, larger view of the opportunities available in the economy as a whole, and of the rapidly shifting terrain ahead. Legendary, long-lived companies are intensely outward-looking. They can spot a global peak and distinguish it from the many false peaks. They understand that an inward focus, especially a narrow focus on being “world’s best” in some matter, can work against long-term adaptation by blinding the organization from seeking new heights. Better for the long haul is an outward perspective that is always seeking alternative mountains to climb.

This outward vista is all the more critical in the new economy because perfection is no longer a solo act. Success is a highly interdependent enterprise, encompassing a network of vendors, customers, and even competitors. A firm needs to explore widely, outside of the current favored position, and at times contrarily.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK