Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Right Story - Wrong Conclusions!

It was bedtime for my son and following usual routine I was reading him some stories. Today we picked Aesop fables - The hare and the tortoise.
The hare was very proud that he was the fastest. The tortoise challenged him. The race started and the the hare sprinted on the race track as the tortoise slowly prodded along. The hare had almost reached when he thought of taking some rest and he slept. The tortoise slowly continued and reached the finishing line as the hare kept sleeping. The hare woke up and realized he had lost the race.
Moral : slow and steady wins the race!

My son was asleep but I was wide awake! I am sure most of us have grown up reading this story and believing the moral without questioning it. However, today I was thinking about it afresh. I looked around me in the office. None of the winners were slow and steady. And those who were slow and steady did not win every time.

I started analyzing the story dispassionately. Well, the tortoise did not really have any strategy at all. He was relying on his competition to make some mistake. He was plain and simple lucky to pull off an upset win. His success was flash in the pan, not really a sustained strategy. What would happen if the hare challenged the tortoise again? What are the chances the hare would make the same mistake again? What are the chances he would ever sleep during the race?

In the corporate world, when we are competing against other value chains, organizations, departments, teams or even individual we need strategies that would give us sustained advantage. Knowledge and wisdom is freely available in todays world. We must try to become the hare who does not sleep. He has far higher chances of winning over the tortoise. But what if you are the tortoise competing with the hare in today's world?

What should the tortoise do then? How does he compete? Does he have any chance at all? Well, yes. The tortoise has to plan his strategy based on the assumption that the hare will not sleep. The tortoises's success will depend on how well he can play to his strength. He can't run faster but can certainly swim faster. His success depends on whether he can find a short cut through water that takes him to finishing before the sprinting hare.

A strategically thinking tortoise who plays to his strength has a far higher chances of winning than a slow and steady tortoise in today's world.
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