Where are all the inspired, brave souls who dare to think big? In so many large enterprises, the way forward has been to place a lot of small bets, spreading the food to too many seedlings, and praying that something takes root. It’s like a kid in a candy store…put 12 different candies on the table and ask a kid to pick 4. They invariably find all of some appeal and try to grab all 12 but cannot eat them all. Whether lack of doing the proper homework, lack of conviction, short term thinking, poor tradeoff analyses, or risk aversion, the result is always the same…mediocity…or worse.
When I worked for Tom Siebel, the mantra was “go big or go home”. Do a few things exceptionally well based on the best knowledge at hand, invest the required people and resources, and leap ahead of the pack. Siebel put everything into its partnership with IBM and voila…into the tornado of hyper-growth. Soon after, Accenture, Cap Gemini, and Deloitte came calling for the same deal. In this discussion, Apple of course comes to mind. They create a finite set of hot categories, invest aggressively, and offer arguably the best products like iPads and the app store underpinned by iTunes. Of course, everyone runs to be a part of the winner and a de facto industry standard is born.
In contrast, so many miss the boat sometimes through sheer lack of vision but more often because they fail to go big. Why Xerox PARC failed to rule the world shows what lack of investment can do.
Geoffrey Moore at Chasm Group speaks of placing a few assymetrical bets among the myriad of potential hits. Companies cannot afford to chase every promising idea, especially when established divisions grab all the resources to sustain mature businesses. But great leaders make the best educated bets on a very finite set of ideas, pick the horses to back, and invest aggressively. They go big. They lead. They inspire. They focus.
Go big or go home. Good words to live by.