October 8, 2012

Focus On The Winning Idea — Kill All The Others

Focus Winning IdeaIn the last post I wrote about The Reality Principle — how success depends on seeing and accepting reality for what it is, then making decisions based on reality instead of your own wishful thinking.   If you do not see reality clearly, reality automatically will work against you and bring pain.

I once heard a quote from Bob Pittman that applies The Reality Principle pretty well.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find it online, but from memory it goes something like this:

“Let’s say you have ten ideas.  Two ideas are clear winners, two are clear losers and six ideas are in the middle.

It’s easy to make a decision about the winners and losers.  You do the winners and forget the losers.  But what about the six ideas in the middle?  They have some good things about them and some bad things about them.  You’re just not sure.

Most people choose to do the two winner ideas and some, maybe all, of the middle ideas.  This is where it gets difficult.  Ideas are like your children — you become emotionally attached to them and want them to succeed in the world.  It’s so easy to fool yourself with an idea that isn’t working.  You think ‘just a little more time, just a little more effort, just a little more investment.’  This is a trap.

The reality is you’ll have the greatest success if you focus only on the two winning ideas.  Kill all the others.”

Pittman speaks the truth.

In my own experience as CEO of VietnamWorks I shut down three lines of business that just weren’t producing a high enough return for the company.  It didn’t make me popular.  It wasn’t fun.  But it was the right thing to do.

Killing ideas or lines of business to focus only on winners isn’t easy.  You may be eliminating jobs of colleagues you care about.  You may be admitting failure.  Others will adamantly disagree with you.

Doing it requires courage.  It’s hard.  Not everyone has what it takes.

I guess that’s why so many people and so many companies remain mired in mediocrity.