Two of the most important requirements for business success are precise thinking and business discipline and yet these are two of the most elusive commodities and ironically probably the two areas which we are least capable of judging and managing ourselves.
Precise thinking isn’t about IQ. It isn’t about really about knowledge. It is about understanding the scenario in which we operating. It is about being able to clearly see all the moves on the board, understanding how things work and how people work. In ‘The Fifth Discipline’ Peter Senge refers to ‘mental models’ which are our beliefs about how things work and inter-relate. It is very difficult to think precisely if we are overly committed to inaccurate or outdated and flawed mental models. Mark Twain probably said it best when he said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”. Knowing stuff for sure that just ain’t so is a sure fire enemy of precise thinking.
Business discipline is the secret sauce of all successful enterprises and it refers to the ability to do the right things insistently, consistently and persistently over a long enough period of time. The real secret of any business is in doing the right things, in sufficient quantities for a long enough period of time. Discipline is the virtue that enables this to happen. Without the discipline to persist, to demand high performance time and again things just take so much longer and sometimes we simply never achieve escape velocity because we are not disciplined to give enough consistent effort over a long enough period of time.
In so many cases the area where we lack most precision in our thinking and where we are blind to our indiscipline is with regard to ourselves. It is all too easy to make excuses, to let ourselves off the hook, to convince ourselves that it doesn’t matter. With regard to ourselves we all need a compassionate and yet unreasonable friend. As Eric Schmidt of Google said, “the one thing people are never good at is seeing themselves as others see them”. Who helps you with this?