Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who is right, who can tell, and who gives a damn right now (Joy Division)

Betamax's failed strategy
 The Duncan J Watts book (Everything Is Obvious, Once You Know The Answer) which I've mentioned in recent posts has an interesting section on the strategy paradox.

In a nutshell this is a strategy which possesses great clarity of vision that is decisively acted upon but yet fails miserably.

The example he cites is Sony's Betamax videocassette tapes vs the VHS format from Matsushita. We all know what happened - the cheaper, nastier, poorer quality VHS tape won the day (before DVDs came along, rendering VHS tapes obsolete).

And the reason why a genius corporation like Sony failed when they had a vastly superior product?

Sony thought people would tape TV shows at home using blank tapes. That seemed a perfectly plausable strategy decision. They didn't think that people would want to own pre-recorded cassettes in great numbers.

But the video rental market exploded (all those video hire places that are now closing down just as quickly). VHS gained an advantage and the more machines that were bought, the more stores stocked VHS tapes.

This is a strategy paradox in action - the main cause of which is not bad strategy - just great strategy that happens to be wrong!

I've been thinking about this in conjunction with my devotion to the evidence based inquiry methods which I believe work brilliantly within a school's strategic vision. The inquiry cycle (do the search on the right to find my other posts on this) is quick on its feet, can adapt to new findings, has its eyes focussed closely on data/evidence and is reactive.

If a Betamax vs VHS scenario ever crops up within a strategy the inquiry method immediately sounds the alert.

Why aren't more school administrators implementing inquiry cycles? I can't see a down side.

No comments: