September 7, 2015
Welcome back…. or, shame on you!
You’re either reading this on Tuesday – after making Labor Day a real holiday – or, you’re cheating yourself and your family by checking your e-mail while pretending to relax, on Monday! Either way, welcome back to the “new year,” which really begins the day-after-Labor-Day!
As you start this new season of your leadership life, let’s play a game: following are two statements-of-fact; both are possible, but one is more right than the other. Which is most true, to you?
A. You can achieve anything you want if you believe in yourself, set clear goals, and work hard. or,
B. You can achieve many (more) things if you prepare for opportunity, see it, and act on it.
Most savvy business people know that "A" is the right answer… right? The science of strategic planning – seasoned with a few doses of John Maxwell or someone like him – would produce "A" as bumper stickers, to sell at the book table alongside the presenter’s autographed writings.
According to Columbia Business School professor William Duggan, the better answer is "B." His apologetic for this contrarian position is the substance you’ll find in his book, Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement (Columbia Business School Publishing; 2007).
His argument, in a nutshell: Instead of setting goals first, it’s better to watch for unexpected opportunities with large payoffs that can be seized at low costs. Then, set your goals and do your strategic planning. The more common perspective – captured in "A" – has it backwards.
Duggan laces his position with myriad examples – from Napoleon to Gates – and paints the value of strategic intuition as the precursor to vision in the classic leadership continuum.
The book paints the profound differences between ordinary intuition (a feeling or gut instinct that has no clear basis or origin), expert intuition (the snap judgments that flow out of years of experience that are situation specific) and strategic intuition (clear thought that is slower than the expert variety, but draws insight from various spheres and situations to provide a breakthrough insight that is game-changing). All three have value… but his research proposes that strategic intuition has set incredible leaders apart through the annals of history.
His observation: business makes progress by following the opportunistic innovation model of strategic intuition, but governments and social causes aim at rigid social goals that reject unexpected opportunity and resist creative transformation.
Entrepreneurs demonstrate a predisposition toward strategic intuition; bureaucrats – from large business institutions, government and established church and ministry organizations – find it disquieting. These more inflexible models are still laboring to embrace the practice of strategic planning; explosive, world-changing markers like Microsoft and Women’s Suffrage succeeded because of someone’s strategic intuition. This understanding weaves through The Master’s Program!
Most enterprises – businesses and ministries- operate on tradition more than intuition; too often, they claim extraordinary potential while using ordinary intuition. The ones that accelerate into exemplary status are usually practicing strategic intuition, without knowing it.
“Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see… So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants” (Ephesians 5:11-17, The Message).
We invest in leaders – in our non-holiday activities! – by helping them trust and exercise their strategic intuition; in their career leadership, and in their calling…