Doesher Advisors Guide

September 18, 2012

// What's Luck Got to Do With It?

On February 28, I posted a blog entitled, "Is it better to be smart or to be lucky?" I thought about that question again recently, when I heard Jim Collins speak about his new book, Great by Choice. During his presentation, Collins shared that, during a nine-year study of the most extreme business successes of modern times conducted by his research team, they asked this question: "Just what is the role of luck?" As you can imagine, this really got my attention. Collins and his team concluded that luck - both good and bad - happens to everyone, whether we like it or not. Really successful people recognize luck, and seize it. They grab "luck events" and make much more of them than less successful people manage to do. (Collins and his partner wrote an article in The New York Times entitled, "What's Luck Got to Do With It?".)

Now, I am a big believer in having a plan. Many times I have said, "Without a plan and/or roadmap, you will get nowhere." However, I have also observed that you need to be attuned to, in Collins' words, "luck events." Although these happenings may not fit your strategy or tactics for the next year or two, they could be game-changers if you recognize their potential.

I am the same guy who strongly recommends staying focused, but I think this subject is critically important. So here are few things for you to consider:

  • What is the potential upside of the "luck event" that has shown up at your doorstep? Could it be a winner, a huge success?
  • Does the "luck event" fit with your long-range mission and vision? You may have to be really creative and open-minded in evaluating this, to visualize the full potential and fit.
  • Is your organization in a position to appropriately handle this "luck event"? (i.e., solid leadership team, consistent profitability, strong balance sheet, etc.)
  • As a follow-up to No. 3, does your company have the required resources to pursue the "luck event" without crippling the primary business unit?
  • Using the graph in Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, find some "early adopters" in your organization and ask their advice. Then query some "early majority" folks, just to see what they think. Don't be discouraged, and be sure to take good notes.
  • The first five steps should go quickly. In my experience, "luck events" have a very short window of opportunity, so you have to think - and move - fast.
  • Assign some of your best people to explore the possibilities, to ensure that you maximize your chance for success.
  • Get the appropriate approvals and go for it.
  • If you suddenly realize it is not a good idea for your company, don't be afraid to pull the plug. Make sure your team has the right perspective and that you're all willing to stop before you get in too deep, if necessary.

Thank you, Jim Collins, for helping me better understand something I have experienced many times in my career. I wish all of you success in dealing with your next "luck event."

Seek. Climb. Lead.


Great By Choice
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