WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN ECO­LOG­I­CAL AP­PROACH TO LEARN­ING FROM THE PAST:

Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

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

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