WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN ECOLOGICAL APPROACH TO LEARNING FROM THE PAST:
Study successful organisations to appreciate the rich contexts and processes involved in their growth, but do not attempt to distil generic precepts or principles from their stories. Focus intently on the organisation at hand to understand the opportunities and challenges inherent in its situation and environment. Resolve to control the controllable, pre- empt the undesirable and exploit the inevitable to produce outcomes that no one could have anticipated. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to excellence. We should always try to learn what drove the success of other organisations, but never believe our own success can be as simple as borrowing the keys. We must pay attention to the innovation bubbling up in our own organisations, and work to spread it further – not try to transplant what has grown up elsewhere to our own domains.
Our focus should be on fostering communities of trust and practice, disciplined yet free, from which brilliant s t r ateg i es c a n emerge organica l l y through doing and learning. In short, we need to recognise the inherent complexity of organisations and work to cultivate excellence within them, not try to engineer it from without. David K Hurst is a management author, educator and consultant. His latest book is The New Ecology of Leadership: Business Mastery in a Chaotic World.
© 2013 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. © The New York Times 2013.
From left: Renée Mauborgne and W Chan Kim
Former US President George W Bush