One of my favorite blogs is Mavericks at Work. If you haven’t added it to your regular reading you’re really missing out. In a recent post Bill Taylor referred to the 70 year effort to break the 4 minute mark for the mile. It seemed unreachable. Then it happened, followed by a sudden burst of sub-4 minute efforts. Taylor’s question today is appropriate. What’s your 4 minute-mile?
What goes for runners goes for leaders running organizations. Progress in business doesn’t move in a straight line. It’s not incremental. Whether it’s an entrepreneur, a scientist, or an athlete, someone does something that was thought to be impossible—somebody changes the game—and what was unreachable becomes merely a benchmark, something for others to shoot for and surpass.
Wharton Professor Jerry Wind, writing about the four-minute mile in his book, The Power of Impossible Thinking, offered this assessment of Bannister’s feat: “The runners of the past had been held back by a mindset that said they could not surpass the four-minute mile. When that limit was broken, the others saw that they could do something they had previously thought impossible.”
Don’t you love that line? “When that limit (the 4 minute-mile) was broken, the others saw that they could do something they had previously thought impossible.” I guess there are really two questions.
- What limits have already been eliminated, that maybe in the form of antiquated assumptions mean that you’re still operating according to yesterday’s ceiling?
- What are today’s limits that are really only thought impossible?
What does it mean to run the four-minute mile in your business—and how are you going to do it?