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What happens if you succeed at the wrong thing? [Growth Needle™]
A look at why succeeding doesn't always bring growth, the trouble with opaque decisions and why a successful formula cannot just be repeated forever.
Greetings from Vancouver! 👋
In this week’s edition, you’ll learn why making the right decision isn’t always what is needed, the trouble with opaque decisions where the wrong people benefit and why successful formulas cannot be repeated forever.
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Let's jump into it!
What Happens if You Succeed at the Wrong Thing?
I was recently talking to an executive on a potential strategy project. Within a few minutes, it became clear that they didn’t need strategy help, they needed implementation help. They had a good strategy (formulated recently) but they were struggling with accountability and follow through.
A new strategy sounded exciting. We could talk about the future, choose strategic priorities and allow everyone to contribute. However, their implementation issues would still be present.
Situations such as this one bring up a great question that every leader should be asking themselves. What happens if you succeed?
In their case, we could have formulated a fantastic new strategy, effectively succeeding at the goals we were discussing but it wouldn’t have changed the probability that this spanking new strategy would still fail.
If you succeed at something and nothing changes, that is your clue that you’re not tackling what should be handled. It can be easy to confuse tasks, especially when one task seems promising but we need to be ruthless in finding the true roadblock instead of what we imagine.
Question: What happens if you succeed at what you’re envisioning? Will it make the impact that you’re expecting?
Who Will Actually Benefit From This?
The Canadian government passed a law called the “Online News Act” where they expect (aka hope) that Facebook and Google will pay news outlets hundreds of million dollars in compensation.
The rationale for the law isn’t clear. Some people have described this law as a “link tax”. Google and Facebook provide links to news articles (driving traffic to them) and in the process, serve up ads—inside the Google search engine or Facebook app. Canada wants a piece of this advertising.
Facebook responded by removing all news links for Canadians and Google is bound to follow suit. The outcome is likely to be even worse for newspapers, an industry which has been struggling for a long time.
I’m amazed at the logic behind this debacle. Canada is free to do whatever they want but so is Facebook and Google. The law feels like a shakedown of tech companies in the name of newspapers, who have yet to figure out how to build a sustainable business model in the age of the internet.
Actions such as this always make you wonder who is actually benefiting. Perhaps the owners of Canadian newspapers thought they could get their government to flex their muscle, just like Italians used to ask the Venice or Vatican governments to send armies to defend their private interests.
In this case, I think the Canadian government is in for a rough few months as the backlash grows and the newspaper industry suffers even more.
Question: Are you aware of who will benefit from the decisions you make?
Does Success Repeat or Rhyme?
I’m a big fan of the Untold sports TV shows on Netflix. Every episode is a standalone story, covering a major event in sports. Season 3 has looked at Johnny Football, the Florida Gators and Jake Paul. The production is top notch and they usually get all the relevant people to provide interviews.
The Florida Gators received a multi episode treatment and it raised fantastic questions for all leaders. The Gators are the American football team of the University of Florida, who won the national title in 2006 and 2008. They did it by following a culture of extreme work ethic (think Elon Musk hardcore) and behind talented players like Tim Tebow.
Their approach worked, at least in 2006 and 2008, but it made me wonder if success can truly be repeated. Sports teams who become national champions tend to do more or less the same thing the next year. It doesn’t usually work well, perhaps because champions aren’t as “hungry” as those who have yet to win it all or perhaps because other teams are also adjusting.
Continual success over the long term requires rethinking on what could work. Organizations may grow for multiple years on the same playbook but it will eventually stop working. Their ability to adjust their strategy will determine what happens next.
The Florida Gators have not won a championship since 2008. What worked in the past is no longer working in the present. We all need to find new and better ways.
Question: Are you spending enough time thinking of what the future success will entail?
Have a great rest of your week!
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