“The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” – Keynes
Coming up with new ideas is a piece of cake. But escaping the pull of the tried and true is the difference between staying releant or not. Old ideas are like oxygen, we don’t even know they are there.
For example, a days ago Nilofer Merchant argued that Michael Porter’s model of Competitive Strategy needs an update. She posted her thoughts on HBR of all places. But see, it’s true.
MBA’s and people who are in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s follow Porter’s model to the T. Just yesterday, I was talking to a partner about this same topic (it’s what inspired me to write this post) and she was adamant about how the rise of the internet and social networks have changed the pace of competition. In her view, it’s still business as usual. Of course, we’re talking about someone who has worked in Mexico, where slowness is the norm, all of her life. Someone who sticks to her beliefs like Kola Loka.
Anyway, everything, including ideas that at some point had strong legs and carried us forward need to be either updated or replaced. Every idea, like packaged food, has an expiration date.
In my opinion, as I’ve been arguing here for the past weeks, speed has always been the norm. Whether you believe industries are static or not, the world changes and so do we. Whether you believe that the information age is the main driver of the changing business dynamics or not, the world is still going to change. Of course, doing these things sells a lot of books and makes a lot of people very happy. Not to mention very rich and popular.
I think we spend incredible amounts of time trying to predict where change might come from just to feel a little more safe about our decisions, when it is more simple to accept that change is inevitable. If you accept that change is inevitable, your reaction to change will be much more powerful. It will be fluid like water moving through rocks. You will act as if nothing. Intuitive and less mechanical.
In closing, if there is one idea I’ll ask you to escape from, is that you can’t predict what is going to happen tomorrow. No model of thinking is going to precisely tell you exactly what steps to take so you don’t make a mistake. We all make mistakes.
We want innovation, but without experiencing failure.
Instead, we should spend more time writing books about “what not to do” instead of “what to do”. I bet you those books would be more interesting than the ones that regurgitate the same best practices. But before we get there, we need to be willing to be wrong and make mistakes. Lots of them.
The only constant is change. Accept it. You’ll be much more happier because of it. And if anything, be the change you want to see in the world. Now that’s an idea you should keep and apply forever because it will never become old.