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Beware the Current Path to Profit Growth: It May Be the Most Expensive and Longest

Mar 7, 2008
Perhaps one of the most persistent forms of defensiveness is the sense that the enterprise is going in the right direction, but is just not executing that direction well enough. Beware the popular answer: Let's take the most direct route from here to there, and keep it simple.

Here's why that route is dangerous: In the nineteenth century, wagon trains headed to California often experienced delays in crossing the Great Plains. Knowing that they must get through the Sierra Nevada mountain passes ahead before winter closed them, many travelers were then tempted to take the shortest route on the map. Those who did often perished or endured other horrible consequences. The reason: The shortest routes on the map had the most difficult terrain to pass through, so that they arrived in the mountain passes even later than those who took the longer, but ultimately faster, routes.

If you are already experiencing great difficulties, having had that experience should be evidence to make you fundamentally re-think what you are doing. Impetuous actions brought on by impatience will not make things better.

For example, in the Gulf War the Iraqis were convinced that the forthcoming battle would entail a massive frontal engagement of ground forces, not unlike those that occurred early in World War I. In such battles in World War I, the well-prepared defender often had the advantage.

Experience in the largely inconclusive earlier war with Iran reinforced this thinking. Lots of lives were lost, but little ground changed hands. Based on that kind of thinking, the Iraqis dug in with little additional thought and confidently waited for the United Nations forces to be slaughtered.

Actually, the circumstances were quite different than the Iraqis perceived. The Iraqis were fighting most of the best troops in the rest of the world, who also had unmatched fire power and intelligence resources.

When the United Nations ignored this invitation to re-fight the bloodiest and most inconclusive battles of World War I, the Iraqis were quickly pushed back out of the prepared positions by a combination of punishing aerial bombardments and superior armored assaults. By being relatively immobile, the Iraqis simply made it easier for the United Nations to deliver their punch.

By being less well prepared to fight a retreating battle than a stationary one, the Iraqi defense rapidly grew weaker as it gave ground. If the United Nations had pressed its attack through to Baghdad, many observers believed that the result could have been a virtually uncontested slaughter of the Iraqi forces.

Under those circumstances, even more hunkering down in those prepared defensive positions would just have cost even more Iraqi lives and equipment. The straight-forward approach to defense was a most inappropriate strategy, as it will be for any organization facing irresistible forces.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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