Friday, November 20, 2009

Punching at the Sun

I particularly enjoyed reading Jim Collins’ two management classics Good to Great and Built to Last. One of my favorite parts in Good to Great is the window vs. mirror paradigm used by successful CEOs to describe success and failure.

Put simply, when successful, CEOs of great companies tended to use the ‘window’ paradigm – they say things like “I got lucky, the economy turned around at the right time” or “I have a great management team” – statements that deflected credit for the success away from them as individuals to external factors beyond their control i.e. outside their ‘window’.

In contrast, they used the ‘mirror’ unsparingly in times of failure. Every failure of the company finally rested at their feet. It was their fault that they didn’t judge the economy slowdown, or that they let costs get out of hand. They held the mirror, where every problem was because of a failure on their part.

By these standards, there isn’t much hope for Wall Street. This President on the other hand, generally comes through as being quite the ‘Great’ CEO.

However, where I find this analogy most interesting overall was in terms of how you look back at life. I was having a conversation with SK about an incident a couple of years back, and it was interesting how I saw it differently from him. As a third-party bystander, he didn’t see it as being my fault.

However, in my head I could see a million different places where I could’ve done things differently, and exhibited better judgment. May I have those decision points back and do the right thing this time around please? But then, real life offers you no do-overs.

Every day, you face small and big hassles and crises. I could be the ‘window’, blaming the world for my problems and existential angst that crops up occasionally. But the ‘mirror’ seems like a better thing to hang on the walls of your life-abode.

I’m normally not given to this much navel-gazing, but this seems to be all that’s flowing from my keyboard, so that’s the way it goes.