Will Lightning Strike You Twice?

lightening-1185742_1920I’m reading “The Vitality Imperative: How connected leaders and their teams achieve more with less time, money, and stress” by Mickey Connolly, Jim Motroni and Richard McDonald. I love an analogy they put forth.

“Eons ago, humans valued fire and yet could not create it. When lightning struck (literally), people captured the fire and tended to it carefully to keep it available for warmth, protection, and cooking. Keepers of the flame sustained the precious resource. When the fire went out, it was gone until lightning struck again.”

Think about this in terms of business strategy.

It takes a bolt of lightning to birth a successful business. A founder has a brilliant idea, takes a leap of faith and a business is born. He or she has identified an addressable market with a product people want. We might consider that “cloud to ground” lightning, the type that starts a fire! There’s also “cloud to cloud” lightning, which produces a flash and a bang but no fire. The idea doesn’t find a market.

Some business ideas are so big that they go on for decades and the fire keeps burning. Federal Express is a good example of a bolt of lightning that created a fire still burning today because the idea was so big.

Many business leaders who spend their career in large companies, or the hired guns who are brought in after the entrepreneur birthed a great idea, are extremely adept at keeping the train on the tracks and increasing its velocity. If the business model and value proposition are strong enough, they may be able to keep stoking the fire and running on the same track for many years.

However, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the rate of change has increased, and many traditional businesses have been disrupted — to the benefit of markets and customers. For those of us who are baby boomers, it would’ve been hard to predict 20 years ago that many traditional retailers would today be in trouble because of the likes of Amazon or that movie rental stores would be defunct or that I’d be able to walk to four craft breweries from my house!

So what’s a CEO to do? You’d better learn to think about strategy effectively, put in processes to project, estimate or take an educated guess at what the future looks like, and be able to respond to it in innovative ways. Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same spot.

Better to be good than lucky. …

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