–Prof. Howard Stevenson, Harvard Business School, 1983
In my last post, I shared about our work with The Hunger Project Mexico leaders, especially around the opportunity in being bold and taking on big challenges. Since that time a client offered me the above quote on entrepreneurship.
I am going to propose that Professor Stevenson’s wonderful definition be expanded to include Cultural Creatives and everyone else who considers themselves change agents or aspires to bringing forth meaningful change of any kind.
Committing to an opportunity “without regard to the resources currently controlled” requires courage. There is “good news and bad news” associated with such a bold action. The moment you commit, several discouraging thoughts, which will seem very, very real, will flash before your eyes:
1) I don’t know how
2) I’m scared to death
3) I’m insufficient
4) I’ll never be good enough fast enough to pull it off
At that moment you have two choices:
1) Slip to the periphery and gesture
2) Surrender to team and strategy
Behind door number one, “slip to the periphery” is “looking good,” avoiding embarrassment, finding good excuses etc., while behind door number two, “surrender to team and strategy” is the willingness to stand in the gap between the known and the unknown, continually exploring for “what’s missing, that if put in place will move us toward our goal,” and also probably more than a few sleepless nights.
So where is the good news in boldly committing you ask? It will eventually produce extraordinary results. It will provide you with great satisfaction and a much richer sense of yourself. It lies in discovering or reconnecting to your own resourcefulness – that’s the best news of all!
An excellent example of “door number two” leadership is Bill Ayer, CEO of Alaska Airlines. During a time when all the major airlines have lost tens of billions and eventually gone bankrupt, Alaska has become a leading innovator and a profitable business whose stock price has increased 300% since 2008. As a regular passenger, I have only great reviews for every aspect of my interactions with them. (For a more complete review of Alaska’s current success click here.)
In 2003 Alaska chose “cost per available seat mile” as a key measure of its success. Their cost at the time was 8.73 cents. They committed to 7.25 cents, which would save $ 300 MM. To quote Mr. Ayer, “That was one of those things where we didn’t know how we were going to do it, but we said to ourselves, ‘that’s what we need to do. A good company would look at that.”
Given all of the cost issues faced by the airlines, including fuel costs rising 35% last year alone, Alaska has “only” hit 7.6 cents in 2011. Meanwhile they’ve gone from being one of the worst on time airlines to the best in the country last year.
Are you ready and willing to “go for it” and to discover your own resourcefulness? If not, what are you waiting for?