Make Big Decisions Using Strategic Foolishness

Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a…

Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets (including the mega-blog He is the author of Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H). Here’s his post:

What do you do when you’re not sure which direction to go?

Most of the world’s highly successful CEOs, generals, presidents and athletes have made mistakes. Benjamin Franklin said, Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.

Even Einstein made mistakes. There was the cosmological constant, based on his erroneous assumption that the universe is static (it’s actually expanding). Then there was his incorrect prediction of the rates of clocks on Earth’s surface. He also miscalculated the electron’s transverse mass. Pretty honest mistakes if you ask me.

Sometimes, when I’m not sure of the right direction, I try to follow Roosevelt’s advice and do something. This strategy actually opens up new options. Tom Cooper, former COO of Access Management, said, Sometimes the very first tactic you execute changes your entire plan.

Consistently finding the best strategy requires occasional foolishness in the eyes of your peers.

Paul writes, … God has chosen the world’s foolish things to shame the wise, and God has chosen the world’s weak things to shame the strong. He is saying there is wisdom and then there’s wisdom.

Pseudo wisdom is what most of us practice on the job. It’s the appearance of wisdom, or better yet, it’s simply persuasion. It may sometimes be correct, but it’s not infallible.

As I’ve surveyed my own experience as well as dozens of books on strategy and execution, I’ve encountered two laws of organizational wisdom:

  1. It is impossible for a group’s best strategic thinking to go far enough, or be smart enough.
  2. All decision making is hindered by selfishness and emotion.

Heroic leadership, by-the-book management, and MBA-style strategy can only take us about 80% of the way. The truly wise leader is willing to try something radical and risky.

Propel yourself a few years into the future and look back on today’s issues, what decisions right now would be the wisest in hindsight, but might look foolish today?

What others call folly may be exactly what your organization needs.