Tom Peters has released a massive, 14-section slide deck that summarises both the evolution and current state of his thinking on management. When I was a manager, Peter’s work always resonated very strongly with me. Now that I’m an academic, it’s clear that there is a sound research base supporting most of his key arguments as well.
The section in the deck resonates with both my manager and my academic sides.
The key message from Peters is:
Whoever tries the most stuff wins. (WTTMSW)
As he points out, this approach is central to science, evolution, innovation, growth.
In another slide, he says:
“The difference between Bach and his forgotten peers isn’t necessarily that he had a better ratio of hits to misses. The difference is that the mediocre might have a dozen ideas, while Bach, in his lifetime, created more than a thousand full-fledged musical compositions. A genius is a genius, psychologist Dean Simonton maintains, because he can put together such a staggering number of insights, ideas, theories, random observations, and unexpected connections that he almost inevitably ends up with something great. ‘Quality,’ Simonton writes, ‘is a probabilistic function of quantity.’” *
—Malcolm Gladwell, “Creation Myth,” New Yorker
*Joe Murray, to TJP, on winning a Nobel in medicine for the 1st
successful organ transplant: “We did more procedures.”
Quality is a probabilistic function of quality – I’ve said this myself!
For innovators, this has some important implications:
- Action now! Innovators innovate. If we’re trying to become more innovative, the best thing to do is to start trying stuff. Don’t look for the perfect idea. Don’t plan to make sure you don’t make a mistake. Try stuff.
- Purpose is what grounds your experiments. The danger in just trying stuff is that you have no idea where you’ll end up. (Though that’s also the opportunity!) Dan Pontefract calls purpose the “leaders’ duty of care.” Nilofer Merchant says that purpose replaces marketing – and it what guides experiments:
Have a bigger goal. Have a reason to care that reaches beyond you / your product / your company. The secret is that it’s something people actually care about outside your organization – something they are already pursuing, and you happen to also be pursuing it. You then get to band together to go after common goal.
- Velocity becomes a key metric. How fast you move becomes really important.
What’s the last new thing you tried? If you can’t remember, or it’s been a while, it’s time to get going. This isn’t just for software startups either. Shawn Cunningham has a great example from a small manufacturing firm he’s worked with.
If whoever tries the most stuff wins, then you are what you try.