Luck Is Just the Spark for Business Giants – NYTimes.com

Is the explanation for wildly successful businesspeople simply “luck”? Jim Collins makes that case that its how these leaders use luck–often in surprising ways–rather than the accumulation of breaks or unique opportunities.

This ability to achieve a high ROL at pivotal moments has a huge multiplicative effect for 10Xers. They zoom out to recognize when a luck event has happened and to consider whether they should let it disrupt their plans. Imagine if Mr. Gates had said to Paul Allen after seeing the Popular Electronics article: “Well, Paul, I’m kind of focused on my studies here at Harvard right now. Let’s wait a few years, and then I’ll be ready to start.”

via Luck Is Just the Spark for Business Giants – NYTimes.com.

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One thought on “Luck Is Just the Spark for Business Giants – NYTimes.com

  1. davidcovey11 says:

    What an interesting breakdown of the often fuzzy idea of ‘luck.’ It’s not so much about whether you get lucky or not, because at one time or another everyone will be affected by external factors in disproportionate ways, its how you react to that luck that brings wild success or mediocrity.

    The basic makeup of the world is changing faster than ever before with the changes in technology, which creates a whole lot of uncertainty but at the same time many more opportunities for success. A thousand years ago changes happened very slowly; one could be confident that life would not be that much different 50 or even 100 years in the future. Now the pace of technological change is incredibly fast. Can you imagine life before the personal computer? Or the internet? Or smart phones, or blogging or facebook? And yet these revolutionary changes are all relatively new inventions. It reminds me of Clayton Christensen’s book, “The Innovators Solution” in which he notes how established companies tend to get disrupted by new ones due to the fast technological or market changes in our current. Opportunities to upset the status quo, or get upset are more abundant than ever, luck is an ever more important factor.

    So when the moments come when lady luck is smiling our way we need to learn to take advantage of them, despite social pressures against us. As the article points out in the example of Bill Gates, he could’ve easily continued his studies at Harvard, listening to his parents advice, and passed up on the opportunity to build the operating program that would make him the richest man in the world. In retrospect the decision seems easy. But in the moment, not so much. Michael Gladwell recently gave a speech about success and risk, in which he noted that great leaders are people who rarely take operational risks, but often take enormous social risks. In other words they don’t take risks in which they don’t feel confident about the outcome, but when they have that confidence they are willing to move forward without regard to the negative opinions, or even scorn, of friends, family and colleagues. (you can read a slightly more detailed write-up here: http://daveibsen.typepad.com/5_blogs_before_lunch/2011/10/malcolm-gladwell-on-operational-vs-social-risk-taking.html). He gave the example of Emil Freireich, the man who discovered the cure for childhood leukemia. To make a more technical story short, Emil developed a theory that would provide a cure for the then, nearly always fatal cancer. His theory was very controversial among his medical colleagues because it had the potential of killing the subjects, and he was ostracized and nearly fired for his ideas. But he stuck to his guns, knowing that he was right and that he wasn’t taking an operational risk, and took the social risk of going forward with it. His discovery is now lauded as saving thousands of lives.

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