In school, rarely does a jock fit in with the group of science nerds. That’s not to say the jock can’t make solid grades or like science; both may well be the case. But as we naturally discover our places within the social ecosystem (i.e., where we feel the most comfortable, where we shine), we generally fall into a single, primary bucket. Spreading too thin generally results in delivering lower value to more people.

“But I have diverse interests,” you admonish. Yes, we humans are multifaceted and capable of complex thinking. It stands to reason that there are many layers to our personalities and a slew of skills.  But as we grow, the fabric of our individual lives becomes more demanding and intense. Some of the peripheral stuff falls away, becoming less important. We emerge specialized because playing football, baseball, hockey and running track becomes too much.

Too much activity. Too little focus.  Too many conflicting priorities. Too little depth of field.

Business is similar to those sports dynamics. A company that chases products which complement existing suites doesn’t necessarily make a smart choice with their pursuit – even if research indicates market potential. Sometimes they’re just chasing rainbows trying to reach dollar signs. Similarly, a company that designs for the masses doesn’t ensure profitable success or even mass appeal (revenue). They may just be throwing spaghetti on the wall to see how much will stick.

According to a 2010 survey of 1,800 executives by Booz & Company:

  • A great majority of executives (64% of the survey respondents) say that their biggest frustration factor is “having too many conflicting priorities.”
  • Executives report that their biggest challenges are (a) ensuring that day-to-day decisions are in line with the strategy (56%) and (b) allocating resources in a way that really supports the strategy (56%).

business strategy

The lesson?

  1. You Shouldn’t Chase Every Promising Opportunity.
  2. Your Business Can’t Afford To Be Vanilla.

Bolting on a new line to your existing business requires more than an additional balance sheet or square footage in the warehouse. It requires coreography of the entire business.  Designing your product or service for the masses means you’ve targeted the lowest common denominators in an effort to swim past a couple of low-level checkpoints. Is that really a long-term growth strategy?

This type of incoherence and lack of strategic focus drains employees and cripples organizations. It compromises resources and weakens results.  Very little actually gets shipped.

It comes down to this: all the pieces added together have to total 100%. Just how many ways are you willing to spit your energies?  Fewer cuts may just equal more reward.

Image from Stella Blu on Flickr.

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