Life-cycle of great business ideas

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Strategy+Business reports on a debate on this issue at the Academy of Management [the big annual get-together of management academics]. The debate apparently addressed questions such as Is there a life-cycle to a good idea? and How do you tell a good one from a bad one? One slightly odd feature of the debate – it made a big deal of the role of ‘heretics’ who become great leaders, but most of the heretics seem to be writers rather than real-world executives. Phil Rosenzweig though offered a good note of caution – not all heresies are good ideas, and not all good ideas came from heresies. I wonder if we could replace ‘not all …’ in this warning with ‘not many …’ ? Anyone out there tried such ‘heretical’ ideas and like to tell us about how well they worked?

In principle, if we are a professional field, sound approaches should be repeatable and cumulative – i.e. two professionals tackling the same issue would use the same tools and come up with similar answers, and those tools would be additional to – not replacements for – what worked previously. Seems that ‘strategy’ does pretty badly on both criteria, with fads coming and going like the lengths of skirts.

We could just about excuse a bit of this, on the basis that competition might neutralise the advantage to be gained from an approach that seemed to work a few years before. But there’s a problem with this argument – most strategy tools do not get adopted in any case [zillions of sales of a book don’t mean people actually do what it says of course!]. So it rather looks like strategy tools aren’t used because they are not seen as useful, so the ‘fad’ effect probably reflects just the trialling of a few brave executives over a short period before the next book hits the stands.

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Comments

  1. Bruce Lewin  October 10, 2008

    >So it rather looks like strategy tools aren’t used because they are not seen as useful

    Or that what passes for a ‘tool’ is actually an arbirtary and subjective list of things to do 😉 Just a pet peeve of mine!!

    Or that what passes for a ‘tool’ is actually a glorified sales message, requiring the author to come and implement personally…

    Better still, get the author to come and speak to you in person to explain the arbitrary and subjective list – you’ve got to love that one!!!

    reply

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