Aug 2, 2016

One Team Working On One Thing

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket is standard advice for anyone trying to mitigate risk.

We are coached to diversify, build a portfolio, develop multiple lines of business, and make little bets. This is absolutely the wrong thing to do in growing a remarkable brand.

You have one team. Get them all focused and working on one thing.

Multitasking Leads to Mediocrity

In 2009 Clifford Nass, a researcher and professor at Stanford University, conducted a study on multitasking. Nass was in awe of his peers and their ability to multitask, and he wanted to know if their gifts could be replicated.

Nass and his team of researchers created a series of experiments to test the performance of high and low multitaskers, but were surprised by the results. Again and again the high multitaskers underperformed.

“We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn’t find it,” said Eyal Ophir, co-author of the study. “The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can’t keep things separate in their minds.”

It turns out, when you try to do two or more things at once you can’t do either well.

This is as true for companies as it is for individuals. Multitasking does not lead to increased productivity. It leads to mediocrity.

Pick One Area to Transform

Resting on your laurels will kill your company. This is not a surprise. You know your competitors aren’t sitting still, and you aren’t either. But where do you invest your limited time and resources?

The sage advice suggests to diversify. Invest in multiple innovations and markets, and see which ones rise to the top. This is exactly what stalwart companies like Motorola, Blackberry, Nokia, and Nortel did, and now they’re gone or a shadow of their former selves.

The problem is transforming your business is surprisingly expensive. According to Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing The Chasm and Zone To Win, developing a new line of business can easily absorb 10% or more of your company’s resources (cash, talent, and energy) before the new unit becomes self-sustaining.

Moore continues, “It is just barely possible that an established enterprise, through intense commitment, clear prioritization, and laser focus, can grow a single net new line of business … That said, it is absolute lunacy to think it can do two or more at the same time.

The best case study of this is Apple. Steve Jobs didn’t make lots of concurrent bets on technology. He made one bet at a time: iMac, iTunes/iPod, iPhone, and iPad. His philosophy was one team working on one thing.

One Bold Vision at a Time

Your organization’s one thing is its Bold Vision.

A Bold Vision is your company’s destination. It’s that thing that you and your team put all of your time, attention, and resources to achieving.

You can avoid the curse of multitasking by getting really clear on a Bold Vision. To paraphrase Clifford Nass, a focused team will always outperform the multitaskers.

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