Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Acceleration or Speed ?

I prefer acceleration to speed.

I don't particularly enjoy driving at high speeds for long periods, but I do like to accelerate quickly from a standing start, though I'll often slow down as soon as I hit the limit.

I find acceleration (or deceleration) more interesting than the sheer thrill of speed.

Now I know I'm stretching it a bit, but if you watch cricket, some of the best bowlers are those who vary their pace. There are speed demons of course, who rely on sheer speed and the fastest ones are very successful. But the not-the-fastest ones will rely on swing, slower balls, change of length, line, and pace to get thru the defenses of batsmen. Some of the greatest fast bowlers work this way.

Taking it to another layer of abstraction, it seems to me that change is good, always running the hardest is, well, hard as well as predictable.

In business strategy too, a change is a good weapon to have. If you can run very very fast, that's great and you should definitely go for it. But doing only that will also make you very predictable - and sooner or later someone will catch up because they know exactly where you are going.

If you can be slightly unpredictable and keep the opposition guessing with fresh innovation and a change of pace every now and then, you'll be a lot harder to catch. Just like complexity, the ability to change pace quickly and effortlessly can be a plus.

Just to be clear, we're not talking about changing your line of business every day, or about confusing your customers with a new product every month. We're not even talking about slowing down permanently - you still have to run, and run pretty darn hard.

But in terms of your promotions, your advertising, your messages, your feature list and so on, adding an element of controlled variability to your formbook can certainly be a good thing.

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