If you’re a regular here at StrategyCentral, you’ve already devoured Good to Great, built on the premise that if we compare two sets of companies, one with great results (or breakout results) with another set that has less than fantastic numbers, we can identify the key ingredients to success.  Think that’s a workable premise?  Seems good.  And the book is packed with significant ideas.  But could there be a flaw or wrinkle in the assumption?  There could be and that’s the foundation of The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it) by Michael E. Raynor.

Raynor, a consultant with Deloitte, has identified an interesting wrinkle.  His key assumption?  "Strategies with the greatest possibility of success also have the greatest possibility of failure (p. 1)."  How could that be?  Well, in the same way that the opposite of love is not hate…but indifference, it is the case that the opposite of great is average or mediocre.  But it turns out that "the best performing firms often have more in common with humiliated bankrupts than with companies that have managed merely to survive (p. 1)."

Does this matter?  Is it significant?  I think it is.  Why?  Well, think about it!  If we’re attempting to move from good to great, and that will require a strategy that sets our effort apart, then we better understand what it is that will enable success and not abject failure.

Two early examples in the book are Sony’s Betamax VCR and MiniDisc music player, both touted as superior products with well thought out strategies…that turned out to be significant failures.  Why?  The Strategy Paradox.  Setting yourself apart requires an early commitment to a groundbreaking idea…and being right.  If you don’t commit to the idea, you are committing to being late to the game.  If you do commit and are wrong at any point it is often impossible to adapt later.

Looking forward to working my way through this one.  Based on my notes on the first chapter, this is going to be a great read!  You can order your copy right here.

The Strategy Paradox