The Strategy Paradox has been named one of the year’s best business books. Strategy + Business named it one of its top five picks in strategy, and BusinessWeek named The Strategy Paradox one of 2007’s 10 Best Business Books.
A compelling vision. Bold leadership. Decisive action. Unfortunately, these prerequisites of success are almost always the ingredients of failure, too. In fact, most managers seeking to maximize their chances for glory are often unwittingly setting themselves up for ruin. The sad truth is that most companies have left their futures almost entirely to chance, and don’t even realize it. The reason? Managers feel they must make choices with far-reaching consequences today, but must base those choices on assumptions about a future they cannot predict. It is this collision between commitment and uncertainty that creates The Strategy Paradox.
This paradox sets up a ubiquitous but little-understood trade-off. Management orthodoxy demands that strategies be built on commitments, which leaves no alternative to basing today’s decisions on assumptions about an unknowable future. The more ambitious among us hope our guesses will be right — or that we can somehow adapt to the inevitably changing seas. In fact, only a small number of lucky daredevils prosper, while many more unfortunate, but no less capable, managers find themselves at the helms of sinking ships. Realizing this, even if only intuitively, most of us shy away from the bold commitments that success seems to demand, choosing instead timid, unremarkable strategies, sacrificing any chance at greatness for a better chance at mere survival.