In my last post, I shared lesson #1, FANATIC DISCIPLINE, from Jim Collins and Morten Hanson’s book, Great By Choice. It’s the first of three core behaviors that mark the 10x companies shared in Collins and Hanson’s latest research. The second behavior that allowed 10x companies to thrive during chaotic and uncertain environments is EMPIRICAL CREATIVITY.
There is a common perception in leadership that innovation is the key to success. Or, put more plainly, the more innovative you are, the more successful you’ll be. However, Collins and Hansen discovered a different reality:
“The evidence from our research does not support the premise that 10x companies will necessarily be more innovative than their less successful comparisons. And in some cases, such as Southwest Airlines versus PSA and Amgen versus Genentech, the 10x companies were less innovative than the comparison….we’re not saying that innovation is unimportant…We concluded that each environment has a level of ‘threshold innovation’ that you need to meet to be a contender in the game; some industries such as airlines, have a low threshold, whereas other industries, such as biotechnology, command a high threshold. Companies that fail even to meet the innovation threshold cannot win. But–and this surprised us–once you’re above the threshold, especially in a highly turbulent environment, being more innovative doesn’t seem to matter very much.” (p. 65, 67)
What’s essential is that creativity and discipline exist together. “Intel’s founders believed that innovation without discipline leads to disaster” (p. 69). In fact, Intel’s #1 core value isn’t innovation or creativity, it’s discipline. Collins and Hansen observe, “The great task, rarely achieved, is to blend creativity intensity with relentless discipline so as to amplify the creativity rather than destroy it” (p. 70).
But the key is not just creativity…it’s EMPIRICAL CREATIVITY. In other words, 10x companies don’t innovate blindly, throwing huge amounts of resources at new ideas. They employ what Collins and Hansen call, “Bullets, Then Cannonballs.”