One of my philosophies on strategy is that every organization is capable of more than it has the vision to achieve. This speaks directly to the concept of potential, and also of the moments where we limit ourselves by accepting less than we have to. So why does that happen, why do people utter small visions? Given the same set of circumstances, why will one organization change the world while the next will plug along, as though the current state will always be good enough… as if relevance isn’t fleeting.
What defines what is good enough, or what you can’t do? Do we even recognize the moments when these concessions are made?
Every achievement related decision you make is colored by a collection of paradigm lenses. They’re based on your experience, your self-view, your view of others, risk tolerance, and your sense of personal efficacy. Hence, asking yourself to think differently than you do can be difficult without help. An interesting and practical illustration of this concept is current research ongoing in the area of economic mobility. (What is the likelihood that one generation will be able to rise to a higher economic position than their parents did?)
Not surprisingly, the economic standing you grow up in has a big impact! Opportunity is obviously more easily facilitated by those who have an excess of resources. But it’s no guarantee either. Your vision, and sense of what is “good enough” plays a huge role in the kind of things you pursue, and how you go about it. Do you enter your career wanting to clean an accounting firm’s office, to be an accountant, or to own a firm of your own? Your trajectory often determines where you land.
So how does this affect your organization? Of course you need a big vision… but even more than that, you need a culture that is gritty about achieving it. A culture that is engaged, and constructively challenges the status quo… where “good” is never good enough.
As the strategist:
Cyclically challenge your assumptions that define how far you can go.
Ask others to challenge you.
Challenge why you can’t change your market or create a new one.
Are the barriers to entry in a new market as real as you thought?
Do you have the intangible assets you think you do, or are you being cocky?
Just like the baby elephant that learned he couldn’t break a small rope, and never bothered to re-challenge as an adult… don’t pull on all the ropes all the time, but give every one of them a tug now and then.