Strategic stupidity, insanity and ignorance

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The fact of life is that no matter how hard we all try, from time to time shit hits the fan.

As Frank once wisely said “That’s Life!”

But, THE BIGGEST frustration is when anointed leaders, their humble followers and hopeful innovators are just outright stupid through (1) insanity, (2) ignorance or too often BOTH. And, the shit they (or even worse ‘we’) are standing in could have been easily avoided. 

Insanity comes from making the same mistakes again, and again, and again (and again) – and failing to learn. Ignorance comes from using moronically stupid lines like “Steve Jobs and Henry Ford didn’t do market research, so why should I?” Or, being unintentionally ignorant, which is perhaps even dumber-er. Ahhh, I feel stupider-er just thinking about such morons!

Please allow me to unpack these …

Stupid 1: Insanity

As Albert Einstein once said …

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Failing REALLY sucks if you truly fail. Massive ramifications — personally and professionally. You don’t want to repeat that. So, one learns and succeeds (hopefully). Failing is only OK if one learns, re-calibrates and ultimately succeeds. (from my post Random Thoughts)

Insanity means that human default is to fail to learn.

Frameworks such as design thinking and agile strategy are well cemented for some business and government, yet rare and/or often more talk than action. Sometimes old ways are better the devil you know (more here Design thinking and overcoming inaction).

Which brings me to the second manifestation of stupidity …

Stupid 2: Ignorance 

So much of the world’s problems, and avoidable failings, come from ignorance.

History records indicates that Henry Ford never actually said “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” as often quoted by the intentionally ignorant.  What is evident is Ford’s obsession with building the production line, rather than having a customer focus – “any colour … so long as it is black” – almost killed the business.

General Motors entered the market, tailoring to customer segments  in the 1920’s – “In 1921, the Ford Motor Company sold about 2/3 of all the cars built in the U.S. And in 1927, that percentage fell to about 15%.” HBR Henry Ford, Innovation, and That “Faster Horse” Quote

Unlike Henry Ford, Steve Jobs was highly customer focused. And, he saw a key role of market research.

“In the early days it was very easy because you’d go to a Homebrew Computer Club meeting and there was a whole market and you could find out what they thought. But, as the market got more sophisticated, it was less easy to do that.”

Unintentional ignorance (an epidemic form of strategic stupidity) can come from a desire to be evidence based but the data and analytics lacks the required rigour to allow any true representation of real people, the market, potential et cetera. Plus, confirmation bias of their own analysis and observations can skew thinking towards affirming existing perceptions, rather than critiquing hypothesis or looking for alternatives.

Hmmm …

Consistently the assumption is made that strategies make a BIG BANG, worthy of HIGH-5s for all, but reality is often a squeak at best, nothing more than a fizz in a forest (“did anyone hear that?”).

Stupidity from intentional or unintentional ignorance tends to result in sloppy design and creative, and crap products, marketing and other strategies. Add to this the oh too common strategic insanity of repeating the same mistakes again and again (and again, and again), no wonder business and government too often finds itself unnecessarily standing in shit that could have been easily avoided.

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