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Unexpected Success

It takes an effort to perceive unexpected success as one’s own best opportunity.

It is precisely because the unexpected jolts us out of our preconceived notions, our assumptions, our certainties, that it is such a fertile source of innovation. In no other area are innovative opportunities less risky and their pursuit less arduous. Yet the unexpected success is almost totally neglected; worse, managements tend actively to reject it. One reason why it is difficult for management to accept unexpected success is that all of us tend to believe that anything that has lasted a fair amount of time must be “normal” and go on “forever.”

This explains why one of the major U.S. steel companies, around 1970, rejected the “mini-mill.” Management knew that its steelworks were rapidly becoming obsolete and would need billions of dollars of investment to be modernized. A new, smaller “mini-mill” was the solution. Almost by accident, such a “mini-mill” was acquired. It soon began to grow rapidly and to generate cash and profits. Some of the younger people within the steel company proposed that available investment funds be used to acquire additional “mini-mills” and to build new ones. Top management indignantly vetoed the proposal. “The integrated steelmaking process is the only right one,” top management argued. “Everything else is cheating—a fad, unhealthy, and unlikely to endure.” Needless to say, thirty years later the only parts of the steel industry in America that were still healthy, growing, and reasonable prosperous were “mini-mills.”

ACTION POINT: Don’t neglect or reject unexpected success. Identify it, absorb it, and learn from it.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

* Source: The Daily Drucker by Peter F. Drucker

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