Too smart to succeed

A new idea, project or venture usually seems like a long shot at first. It cannot be a sure thing without copying what already exists, stepping on the toes of giants or getting a "ho-hum" response from the market. Being innovative involves taking risks, exploring new territory and venturing into unproven possibilities. It's not for the tentative, fainted hearted or overly-cautious. Succeeding with a new venture calls for turning up one's determination and fortifying one's resolve.

We're headed for a pitfall when we lock into an unwavering trajectory toward our long shot at success. We've become too smart to succeed. Our conviction has become conceited and selfish. Our optimism appears arrogant and pig headed. Our determination seems insensitive and unresponsive.  We're making the wrong impression on others and failing to correct our trajectory in the process.

Success also calls for midcourse corrections. The trajectory needs to waver off the initial course. There's much to be learned in the process of launching a venture from the early reactions to it. The customers, rivals and industry analysts can all teach lessons and suggest upgrades. Changes in the context can call for adjustments or revisions. New developments may require new solutions. There will be many occasions of throwing out the bath water while taking care not to discard the baby. 

Here are a few strategies for ensuring the long shot trajectory gets revised insightfully:
  1. Listen to those who are close to the customers as if they are the fingertips that can feel what's going on outside the enterprise.
  2. Ask oneself and others "what's missing?", "what's not working?" and "what's in need for more refinement?"
  3. Learn from what happens to get better or different results by changing methods, processes and strategies.
  4. Theorize the underlying reasons for surprising successes, approval ratings and growth. 

Each of these transforms the long shot trajectory into a learning organization. The enterprise is continually in a process of discovering, exploring and coming to new realizations. The conventional emphasis on delivering reliably and consistently gets counterbalanced by seeking out the unforeseen and unsettling evidence. The way to success combines being very smart with being "not too smart" to continue learning.

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