Monday, 17 September 2012


I suppose I could change him for someone less philosophical - my doctor that is - who came out with the slightly gloomy thought as he examined me during a routine investigation that all life strategies ended in one place.


Put it into an economic environment and this would mean all empires and business empires end up collapsing. Which if you take a long view of history is about right. Persia. Egypt. Greece. Rome.  And, probably in the near future, will include Western Civilisation.

However he then added something slightly more cheering which was the journey of life was what mattered anyway. Enjoy it, discover new things and try to make a difference. He was there to make sure, as best he could, that one had rather more time than otherwise on the journey enjoying the experience, but, nonetheless, on a train without brakes that would one day hit the buffers.

Business leaders talking about long term strategy as opposed to short term tactics, about exit plans or about sustaining themselves through a series of generations are deluding themselves. If there’s only one certain exit plan it’s death.

Jeremy Clarkson talked about trying to lose weight and giving up drinking. He concluded:

“Waking up feeling fresh is like dying with a clear conscience and a healthy bank balance.  It means you’ve wasted your life”.

We’ll look back on the South Sea Bubble, the traumas of the 1970s miners’ strike and the current recession as blips in a high speed journey through vivid landscape.

So when you sit down to write your business plan in today’s chaotic times think of the tactics of short term success - of how you can make technological, marketing or simply product breakthroughs sooner rather than later…there may not be a later. Think about doing great stuff not about creating a great company. As Herb Kelleher founder of South West Airlines in the USA put it:

“We have a strategic plan; it’s called doing things.”

Ben and Jerry may not quite match Watson and Crick; Walt Disney may not have been as significant as Alexander Fleming and Woody Allen may be a pale shadow of Shakespeare but each and every creative journey is a roller coaster like the legendary Kingda Ka in New Jersey - the world's tallest roller coaster, the world's second fastest roller coaster and voted the scariest roller coaster.  There’s nothing strategic here just a near-death experience.

Which brings me back to my doctor.

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