Being Right Means Knowing When You're Not Right Anymore

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I’ve long been a fan of Jeff Bezos’s approach toward being stubborn on vision whilst flexible on details, and playing the long game. Amazon are one of the few companies that seem to really live and breathe that.

So it was interesting to read over on the 37Signals blog the advice he gave to them during a talk he did on product strategy. The smartest people, he said, are not only open to new points of view and challenges to their own way of thinking, but they are constantly revising their understanding and reconsidering problems that they thought they’d already solved. Conversely, people who are wrong a lot of the time obsess about details that only support one point of view and are unable to climb out of that to see the bigger picture from multiple angles. 

There’s something there that doesn’t sit well with more traditional approaches of setting a course and a strategy and then not deviating from that pre-defined plan. The tyranny of an annual planning and budgeting cycle is that as soon as circumstances change (as they inevitably will) no-one wants to look like they couldn’t see it coming (least of all the most senior leaders) and it becomes attritional to deviate from the original plan. So responses become squeezed into looking like they were part of the original plan anyway, which leads to it being the wrong response. 

It’s one thing being confident and stubborn as a leader in your vision for success. It takes a whole different kind of leadership confidence to consider your point of view on how you get there as temporary.

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