Focus like an Eagle; Strategy Lessons from Nature
The discussion about focus has received a lot of attention in the media recently. Daniel Goleman the mastermind behind the Emotional Intelligence has published a great book on the same topic. Then I came across a cartoon that it really stroke me out, a cartoon that has a track record back in 1985.
This is no secret that electronic pollution has become a challenge to human kind. Information overload has been noted as a factor in productivity loss (versus gain). The globalization is in full swing and setting a strategy forward is a real challenge for many industries. So the need for focus has become so paramount for leaders and businesses than any time ever.
But how to focus, and what should be the focus on? As seen from the above cartoon, too much focus could result in missing the side issues (deemed to), which are often critical risks and opportunities.
Where to focus?
Ironically I came across another article; about eagle’s vision and its comparison to human eye. Interesting to learn that eagle’s eye has higher sensitivity to colors and covers a wider range of wavelengths including UV. The key advantage though is that eagle’s vision has double field of view and a tele-zoom capability!
A lesson from nature is that businesses need to make sure that they have a wide angle view to see the dynamics in the global economy, supply-demand, shift in customer taste, cross industry technology evolution and other aspects that may deem to be side issues but understanding them would enable the businesses to enrich their mid-to-long term strategies and position the business well in advance of major shifts.
Also, businesses need to have a zoom in view and focus on critical short-term issues such as execution and performance gaps, cashflow, liquidity, leverage, portfolio, culture inefficiencies and so on. Attention to these matters would help understanding the priorities and in turn would help meeting immediate goals.
Let’s compare businesses to human body (yes, another analogy from nature). The eyes are quite comparable to the teams and processes that make sure that market intelligence is collected and passed on to the brain. The market intelligence includes rival watch, change in customers’ taste, global trends and other dynamism in the marketplace. Marketing/sales and business development teams have a mandate for collecting, interpreting, and passing these information to the organization (usually senior leadership.)
The brain (steering committees, senior leadership, the board) is where the information is processed, goals are set, strategies are defines and directions are created for feet to take the business towards those objectives. Hands can be seen as execution arms.
With above analogy, then the leadership needs to make sure that there are teams and processes (eyes) in place to watch the marketplace in a zoom in and also wide angle mode. Simply the business needs those organs in the first place. Secondly effective processes (nerves) are needed to carry the information into the organization. And Thirdly the brain should have the capacity to process, understand, and also the appreciation for the received information.
Some organizations are so focused on execution of projects that they miss major technology evolution/shift or changes in the business environment, so when the project is completed the product had lost half of the potential demand among its consumer base. Sadly there are businesses that have a comprehensive market intelligence departments but the collected information would never included in strategy development. Why, because for example the culture of the organization is very top-bottom and is not sophisticated enough to incorporate those valuable information in the strategic planning.
Many CEOs didn’t take e-Commerce seriously. Many didn’t take M-commerce seriously; and yet many don’t take the evolution of business models seriously. But interestingly they all had heard about it early enough and had the chance to focus on, assess, plan, and be ahead of the game.
Recommended books on this subject: