Secrets they don’t teach you in business school
1. Fret less about the bottom line
Avoid nakedly targeting profit and growth, Kay advises. Think what happened to Boeing. Once, Boeing’s leaders would “eat, breathe, and sleep the world of aeronautics”. The company duly produced the 747 and its fortunes soared. When in 1998 it shifted focus to shareholder return and return on investment, paradoxically the company plunged like the pound.
2. Work like Walton
Take a leaf from the bargain basement book of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, who channelled his energy into developing outstanding stores. “I have concentrated all along on building the finest retailing company that we possibly could. Period. Creating a huge personal fortune was never particularly a goal of mine,” Walton said.
3. Rip up the rulebook
Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs transcended business because they modified the rules by which success in their fields was gauged. The three changed our view of what is good in personal transport, children’s entertainment and computing, selling products never imagined before. “The criteria of achievement are constantly redefined by great achievers,” Kay writes.
4. Aim to adapt
Never be afraid to scrap a dud idea. Consider the strategy of America’s canniest president, Theodore Roosevelt, who soberly married resolve to attain high-level aims with an equally marked absence of commitment to any intermediate goal or action, according to Kay. “Try something,” Roosevelt said. “If it fails, admit it frankly, and try another.”
5. Stop trying
Let go of the need for success at all costs and you may lose much pressure and angst linked with that attitude to productive effect. Kay cites sports psychologist Bob Rotella. According to Rotella, in golf you only swing well when you stop thinking about the swing. Rotella made a career by persuading audiences that, as Kay suggests, the principle has wide application.
6. Muddle through
Avoid thinking of business as a puzzle with a single solution. Unlike Sudoku, business is messy – littered with grey areas. So you must be pragmatic. Muddle through without impact statements, cost-benefit analyses – or metrics generally, which Kay brands “the curse of our time”. Above all, skip consciously trying to concoct shareholder value: a trend he repeatedly slams.