We watch athletes and performers who have put in the 10,000+ hours of practice time (see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell) rise to the top of their field. Then we see Richard Branson launch Virgin Atlantic Airways on a whim, despite having NO experience running an airline. What is the explanation for these very different paths to success?
Frans Johansson suggests in his book, The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World, that success is more random than we want to believe, and there are some specific actions we can take to capture this randomness for our favor. Serena Williams and Yo-Yo Ma can focus their efforts and practice in a way that no entrepreneur, scientist, or artist can. They are playing the same game, with the same rules over and over again. But the rest of us live in a world where the rules are constantly changing. In 2004-7, Nokia dominated the mobile phone industry. Then the iPhone hit the market on June 29,2007.
A company with zero experience swooped in to dominate the market in less time than it takes to earn a law degree. The difference? The rules can change and be changed in the mobile-phone industry. A tennis player could never walk on the court and change the basic structure of the game, but the rules for competing in the mobile-phone business morph all the time. They are up for grabs. At one point phones were supposed to be robust and sturdy, the next moment they were cool and sleek; then they had to take amazing pictures and play music, and now you have to be able to edit those same pictures while playing a game with your friend on another continent and then hand the phone to your grandmother because she needs to check her Facebook status…Want to change your business model with a new online play? Go ahead, try it. If it works, you’ve just changed the game. The implications of this difference are enormous, because they suggest that in the real world, as opposed to the world of tennis, you have no real clue about what it takes to win at any given time. The rules can change so quickly that success is essentially random. This is true virtually everywhere.
While Click moments are a fact of life, they have a mystical quality to them. We accept them as the “AHA” moment of an idea or the moment of love at first site, but, it’s hard to incorporate into a business plan. Johansson has some ideas on how to create Click moments:
- Take Your Eyes Off the Ball – explore things not connected to our immediate goals.
- Use Intersectional Thinking – purposefully explore different fields, cultures, industries.
- Follow Your Curiosity – listen to your intuition.
- Reject the Predictable Path – whatever solutions you come up with will set you apart.
In the second section, Johansson explains the idea of placing purposeful bets with one of the points being to calculate affordable loss rather than ROI. He goes on in the third section to talk about types of complex forces and how to harness them:
In order to harness complex forces you must first to create something for these forces to latch on to. You must actually do something, even if you are not sure where it will lead. This tactic is based on the idea that the most important part of the purposeful bet is the fact that you took action. Once you start executing, whether or not the bet actually works in your favor, you are exposed to complex forces that can pave the way for future success. Even if you do not have a crystal-clear goal in mind, it is still better to do something – and to tell people about it. The complex forces of the world will now have a concept to work with, and you will have exposed yourself to the possibility of positive unanticipated consequences, cascades, and self-reinforcing loops.
I recommend this book for business owners and artists that have struggled to come up with perfect business plans or been told that you cannot succeed because “that’s never been done before”.