One of the “Entrenched Myths” of management that Jim Collins and Morton Hansen tackle in Great By Choice is the idea that innovation can explain the performance differences.
Their conclusion: “Innovation by itself turns out not to be the trump card we expected; more important is the ability to scale innovation, to blend creativity with discipline.”
Creativity AND Discipline.
I love that. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. Both are interesting on their own, but together, they make magic.
Good ideas and good strategies are plentiful. The weight of the research on why strategies fail points at the execution side much more so than the idea side of the equation.
In a career hanging around mostly technology organizations, the limiting factor has NEVER been on the idea front. I’ve had the great fortune to work with and around some genuine geniuses…true Rocket Scientists able to do remarkable things with design, code and systems.
In cases where the Rocket Scientist was complemented by the Rock Star Effect…the team of execution wizards responsible for packaging, producing and delivering the offering(s) and doing so in a way that consistently wins the hearts and minds of audiences, great things happened. Sales soared, stock prices climbed and fortunes were made.
While talking about Apple in this context has almost become cliché in our society, it is still annoyingly amazing to walk into an Apple store on a Friday night and see so many people hovering around what would look to an alien like 3 different devices. Obviously, Apple has been the master of managing the Rock Star Effect to great success for the past decade.
Collins and Hansen appropriately blend creativity with discipline. The discipline component comes from great management. These managers look at their business from the outside-in and they understand that the customer experience is much more than just the hardware or software, it’s the perception that every touch-point leaves on their minds and hearts.
Who said there’s not drama and sex appeal in packaging, documentation or support?
Creating the Rock Star Effect requires intimate understanding of the audience, an ability to see and cultivate or manage the ecosystem surrounding the audience, and some truly remarkable coordination of the internal functions that are so critical to producing and delivering the finished offering. In other words, great management from top to bottom and front to back. Easy to say…and given the many very average firms in our world, not so easy to pull off.
And yes, without the Rocket Scientist…or in my already muddled metaphor, the talented musician capable of composing and creating and doing those things that the rest of us mere mortals can only marvel at, there’s no chance of a sustained Rock Star Effect.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
The audience sees and lives and remembers the concert and the talented musicians. A great concert is a lifetime memory. However, unless there’s a team working to create the Rock Star Effect, the talented musician is stuck playing bars and fairs. The same goes for Rocket Scientists. For most of our history, these brilliant geniuses earned government scale. Add one Elon Musk or Richard Branson and the talent their teams bring to creating the Rock Star Effect and there might just be a few more Rocket Scientists at the country club in the near future.
Now, I’ve got to satisfy a sudden craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.